Wed. Apr 17th, 2024

DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip — Nearly three dozen trucks entered Gaza on Sunday in the largest aid convoy since the war between Israel and Hamas began, but humanitarian workers said the assistance still fell desperately short of needs after thousands of people broke into warehouses to take flour and basic hygiene products.

The Gaza Health Ministry said the death toll among Palestinians passed 8,000, mostly women and minors, as Israeli tanks and infantry pursued what Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called a “second stage” in the war ignited by Hamas’ brutal Oct. 7 incursion. 

The toll is without precedent in decades of Israeli-Palestinian violence.

Over 1,400 people have died on the Israeli side, mainly civilians killed during the initial attack.

Communications were restored to most of Gaza’s 2.3 million people Sunday after an Israeli bombardment described by residents as the most intense of the war knocked out phone and internet services late Friday.

Israel has allowed only a trickle of aid to enter. On Sunday, 33 trucks carrying water, food and medicine entered the only border crossing from Egypt, a spokesperson at the Rafah crossing, Wael Abo Omar, told the Associated Press.

The Gaza Health Ministry said the death toll among Palestinians passed 8,000, mostly women and minors.AP
Nearly three dozen trucks entered Gaza on Sunday in the largest aid convoy.AP/Abed Khaled

After visiting the Rafah crossing, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court called the suffering of civilians “profound” and said he had not been able to enter Gaza. “These are the most tragic of days,” said Karim Khan, whose court has been investigating the actions of Israeli and Palestinian authorities since 2014.

Khan called on Israel to respect international law but stopped short of accusing it of war crimes.

He called Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack a serious violation of international humanitarian law. “The burden rests with those who aim the gun, missile or rocket in question,” he said.

The Israeli military said Sunday it had struck over 450 militant targets over the past 24 hours, including Hamas command centers and anti-tank missile launching positions.

Huge plumes of smoke rose over Gaza City. Military spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said dozens of militants were killed.

Palestinians mourn their relatives killed in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip, in a morgue in Khan Younis, Sunday, Oct. 29, 2023. AP/Fatima Shbair
Israel has allowed a small set of aid to enter. On Sunday 33 trucks carrying water, food and medicine entered the only border crossing from Egypt.AP/Hatem Ali
Communications were restored to most of Gaza’s 2.3 million people Sunday.AP

Hagari also blamed Hamas’ leader in Gaza, Yehiya Sinwar, for bringing destruction upon his people with the Oct. 7 attack. “We will chase him until we get him,” he said.

The Hamas military wing said its militants clashed with Israeli troops who entered the northwest Gaza Strip with small arms and anti-tank missiles. Palestinian militants have continued firing rockets into Israel.

The aid warehouse break-ins were “a worrying sign that civil order is starting to break down after three weeks of war and a tight siege on Gaza,” said Thomas White, Gaza director for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, known as UNRWA. “People are scared, frustrated and desperate.”

UNRWA spokesperson Juliette Touma said the crowds broke into four facilities on Saturday. She said the warehouses did not contain any fuel, which has been in critically short supply since Israel cut off all shipments. Israel says Hamas would use it for military purposes.

One warehouse held 80 tons of food, the UN World Food Program said.

Over 1,400 people have died on the Israeli side, mainly civilians killed during the initial attack.AP/ Bernat Armangue

It emphasized that at least 40 of its trucks need to cross into Gaza daily just to meet growing food needs.

President Joe Biden in a call with Netanyahu on Sunday “underscored the need to immediately and significantly increase the flow of humanitarian assistance to meet the needs of civilians in Gaza,” the U.S. said.

Israeli authorities said they would soon allow more humanitarian aid to enter Gaza.

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But the head of civil affairs of COGAT, the Israeli defense body responsible for Palestinian civilian affairs, provided no details on how much aid would be available.

Elad Goren also said Israel has opened two water lines in southern Gaza within the past week. The AP could not independently verify that either line was functioning.

The Hamas military wing said its militants clashed with Israeli troops who entered the northwest Gaza Strip with small arms and anti-tank missiles. AP
Israeli authorities said they would soon allow more humanitarian aid to enter Gaza.AP

Meanwhile, crowded hospitals in Gaza came under growing threat.

Residents living near Shifa Hospital, the territory’s largest, said Israeli airstrikes overnight hit near the complex where tens of thousands of civilians are sheltering.

Israel accuses Hamas of having a secret command post beneath the hospital but has not provided much evidence. Hamas denies the allegations.

“Reaching the hospital has become increasingly difficult,” Mahmoud al-Sawah, who is sheltering in the hospital, said by phone. “It seems they want to cut off the area.”

The Palestinian Red Crescent rescue service said nearby Israeli airstrikes damaged parts of another Gaza City hospital after it received two calls from Israeli authorities on Sunday ordering it to evacuate. Some windows were blown out, and rooms were covered in debris. The rescue service said airstrikes have hit as close as 50 meters (yards) from the Al-Quds Hospital where 14,000 people are sheltering.

Israel ordered the hospital to evacuate more than a week ago, but it and other medical facilities have refused, saying evacuation would mean death for patients on ventilators.

“Under no circumstances, hospitals should be bombed,” the director general of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Robert Mardini, told CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

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