Israel and the IDF will do everything in their power in order to help rehabilitate the Gaza Strip and assist civilians in the Palestinian enclave, IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz said Tuesday, as four weeks of fighting appeared to grind to a halt.
“We are entering a complex period of assistance and rehabilitation,” Gantz said. “We will assist [the people in Gaza] not because of a strategic consideration, but because of the humanitarian aspect,” he added.
Israel has allowed transfers of humanitarian goods into Gaza throughout the conflict, but officials in the Strip and the United Nations have warned of a humanitarian disaster, as 28 days of bombing raids have left homes destroyed and vital infrastructure crippled.
The IDF Chief of Staff stressed that Israel was already providing civilians across the Gaza border with food and medical supplies, adding that neither he nor anyone in Israeli leadership positions wished to deliberately inflict harm on the Palestinian people.
“We are sparing no efforts to send them food,” Gantz said. “It is morally important and we have nothing against the people of Gaza; they have a right to live just like everyone else.”
Three hundred trucks carrying medical equipment were set to pass from Israel into the Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom crossing later Tuesday, Ynet reported.
Earlier Tuesday, Mufeed al-Hasayneh, the minister of public works in Gaza, accused Israel of causing over $5 billion worth of damage in the Gaza Strip since its military launched a large offensive there on July 8, Palestinian Media reported.
Health officials in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip say that some 1,800 Palestinians have been killed since the fighting began, most of them civilians and many of them children. Israel says some 900 of the dead in Gaza were combatants.
Hasayneh said tens of thousands of homes had been completely or partially destroyed, and that infrastructure in the Strip had sustained severe damage as well, the Palestinian news agency Ma’an reported Monday.
Israel has blamed Hamas for the death and destruction in Gaza, since it emplaced its rockets, rocket launchers, cross-border tunnel openings and other military infrastructure in homes, schools and mosques, and thus used Gazans as human shields.
The Gaza minister went on to assert that at least 70% of water wells in the Palestinian enclave had been destroyed or decommissioned. He added that 10 power lines in the Strip had been cut as well, effectively leaving thousands of Palestinians without any access to power. Israel says several power lines have been damaged by rockets fired by Hamas.
On Tuesday, an IDF spokesman said the army had completed its mission of destroying 32 of Hamas’s attack tunnels that cross over from the Strip into Israeli territory. Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said that by 8 a.m. on Tuesday morning, the Israeli military was set to withdraw all of its ground troops from Gaza, as an Egyptian-backed, 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire came into effect.
The war in Gaza has claimed the lives of 64 Israeli soldiers, 11 of whom were killed by Hamas gunmen emerging from the tunnels dug under the Gaza-Israel border, and three civilians on the Israeli side. Over 3,000 rockets have been launched at Israeli cities and towns in the month-long conflict.