Israel pounds Gaza neighborhoods, as residents scramble for safety

Palestinians caught in fighting triggered by massive Hamas assault on Israeli civilians are trapped in enclave, where Israel has vowed to target anywhere the terror group operates

A view of the rubble of buildings hit by an Israeli airstrike, in Gaza City, October 10, 2023. (Fatima Shbair/AP)
A view of the rubble of buildings hit by an Israeli airstrike, in Gaza City, October 10, 2023. (Fatima Shbair/AP)

Israeli warplanes hammered the Gaza Strip neighborhood by neighborhood on Tuesday, reducing buildings to rubble and sending people scrambling to find safety in the sealed-off territory as Israel vowed to ensure Hamas would never be able to repeat its devastating weekend mass attack on southern Israel, in which hundreds of Israeli civilians were slaughtered.

Aid organizations pleaded for the creation of humanitarian corridors to get aid into Gaza, warning that hospitals overwhelmed with wounded were running out of supplies. Israel has stopped all access of food, fuel and medicines into Gaza, as it seeks to destroy Hamas’s entire military capabilities, and the sole remaining access from Egypt shut down Tuesday after airstrikes hit near the border crossing.

The war began after Hamas terrorists stormed into Israel on Saturday and slaughtered hundreds of civilians in a series of border towns. Some 1,500 gunmen invaded after breaching the Gaza Strip border fence and then rampaged murderously for hours.

The death toll in Israel from the attack and subsequent battles rose above 900 by Tuesday, according to reports. Over 500 people remained hospitalized, many with life-threatening injuries, and over 2,700 have been injured since Saturday. The terrorists also kidnapped about 150 men, women and children and dragged them into Gaza. Hamas also launched over 5,000 rockets at Israel and has continued to bombard southern and central areas.

Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry says 700 people in the Palestinian enclave have been killed in retaliatory Israeli strikes. Israel says it is targeting terrorist infrastructure and all areas where Hamas operates or hides out. Wherever Hamas operates, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned on Monday night, “we will turn into a city of ruins.”

The conflict is only expected to escalate. Israel expanded the mobilization of reservists to 360,000 on Tuesday, according to the country’s media. After days of fighting, the military said Tuesday morning that it had regained effective control over areas Hamas attacked in the south and near the Gaza border.

A looming question is whether Israel will launch a ground offensive into Gaza — a 40-kilometer-long (25-mile-long) strip of land wedged among Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea that is home to 2.3 million people and has been governed by Hamas since 2007 after it wrestled control of the territory from the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority.

Palestinians inspect the damage of destroyed buildings after Israeli airstrikes in Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, October 10, 2023. (Hatem Ali/AP)

The Israeli military said it struck hundreds of targets overnight in Gaza City’s Rimal neighborhood, an upscale district that is home to ministries of the Hamas-run government, as well as universities, media organizations and the offices of aid organizations. “Under the rubble” in Rimal and other targeted areas “are the bodies of hundreds of terrorists,” the IDF Spokesman Daniel Hagari said Tuesday night.

Palestinian Civil Defense forces pulled Abdullah Musleh out of his basement together with 30 others after their apartment building was flattened by the airstrikes.

“I sell toys, not missiles,” the 46-year-old said, weeping. “I want to leave Gaza. Why do I have to stay here? I lost my home and my job.”

After hours of nonstop attacks, residents left their homes at daybreak to find buildings torn in half by airstrikes or reduced to mounds of concrete and rebar. Cars were flattened and trees burned out on residential streets that had been transformed into moonscapes.

The devastation signaled what appeared to be a new Israeli tactic: warning civilians to leave certain areas and then hitting those areas with unprecedented intensity. On Tuesday afternoon, the military warned residents of another nearby neighborhood to evacuate and move into the center of Gaza City.

“There is no safe place in Gaza right now, you see decent people being killed every day,” Hasan Jabar, a Gaza journalist, said after three other Palestinian journalists were killed in the Rimal bombardment. “I am genuinely afraid for my life.”

Palestinians walk amid the rubble following Israeli airstrikes that razed swaths of a neighborhood in Gaza City, October 10, 2023. (Fatima Shbair/AP)

Hours after Saturday’s incursion and the massacres of Israeli civilians began, senior Hamas official Saleh al-Arouri said the group had planned for all possibilities, including “all-out war,” and was ready to suffer “severe blows.”

Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders have pledged to ensure Hamas can never again muster the capacity to harm Israel, stating that the terror group’s demise is critical to Israel’s future, with Netanyahu comparing the atrocities against Israeli civilians on Saturday to the actions of Islamic State.

“This war was imposed upon us by a despicable enemy — by savages who celebrate the murder of women, children, and the elderly,” Netanyahu said on Monday night. “The atrocities carried out by Hamas have not been seen since the atrocities of ISIS. Children bound and executed with the rest of their families, young girls and boys shot in the back, executed, and other atrocities that I will not describe here.”

Al-Arouri’s comments suggested Hamas expected the fight to spread to the West Bank and possibly for Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group to open a front in the north. But despite some eruptions of violence, neither has happened on a significant scale.

In hopes of blunting the bombardment, Hamas has threatened to kill one Israeli civilian captive any time Israel targets civilians in their homes in Gaza “without prior warning.” A senior Israeli government source on Monday said that the “roof knocking” policy, whereby the IDF has previously used text messages, phone calls, or an initial strike on the roof to warn residents of a building that is about to be struck, is not currently being used except in certain circumstances. Instead, Israel has been urging the Gazan populace to evacuate from central areas where it is targeting terrorist infrastructure.

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen warned in response to the Hamas execution threat that “this war crime” would not be forgiven.

Palestinians take a kidnapped Israeli civilian, center, from the Kfar Aza kibbutz into the Gaza Strip on October 7, 2023. (Hatem Ali/AP)

The terrorists’ attack stunned Israel with a death toll unseen since the 1973 Yom Kippur War with Egypt and Syria — and those deaths happened over a longer period of time. It brought horrific scenes of Hamas terrorists gunning down civilians in their cars on the road, in streets of towns, and at a music festival attended by thousands in the desert near Gaza, while dragging men, women and children into captivity.

The Israeli military said more than 900 people have been killed in Israel. In Gaza and the West Bank, 704 people have been killed, according to Hamas authorities there. Israel says hundreds of Hamas fighters are among them. Thousands have been wounded on both sides.

The bodies of roughly 1,500 Hamas gunmen were found on Israeli territory, the military said. It wasn’t immediately clear whether those numbers overlapped with deaths previously reported by Palestinian authorities.

In Gaza, more than 187,000 people have fled their homes, the UN said, the most since a 2014 air and ground offensive by Israel uprooted about 400,000 in a conflict triggered by the killing of three Israeli teenagers who were abducted in the West Bank by Hamas-affiliated terrorists, and then subsequent Hamas rocket barrages at Israel after it arrested scores of the groups’ members.

Smoke rises from an explosion caused by Israeli airstrikes on the border between Egypt and Rafah, Gaza Strip, October 10, 2023. (Hatem Ali/AP)

The vast majority are sheltering in schools run by UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees. Damage to three water and sanitation sites have cut off services to 400,000 people, the UN said.

On Monday, Israel announced a “complete siege” on the territory, halting deliveries of food, fuel, water, medicines, electricity and other supplies. That leaves the only access in and out through the Rafah crossing with Egypt.

But that too was shut down Tuesday after Israeli strikes raised palls of smoke nearby. A day earlier, the Egyptian Red Crescent managed to get in one shipment of medical supplies.

Egyptian officials were talking with Israel and the US, pushing to set up humanitarian corridors in Gaza to deliver aid, an Egyptian official said. There were negotiations with the Israelis to declare the area around the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza as a “no fire zone,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

The UN’s World Health Agency echoed the call for humanitarian corridors. It said that supplies it had pre-positioned for seven hospitals in Gaza have already run out amid the flood of wounded.

An IDF soldier prepares to remove the bodies of Israelis killed during an October 7, 2023, attack by Palestinian terrorists, in Kibbutz Kfar Aza, in southern Israel bordering the Gaza Strip, on October 10, 2023. (Jack Guez/AFP)

“With the number of casualties currently coming in, these hospitals are now running beyond their capacity,” WHO spokesman Tarik Jazarevic told reporters in Geneva. The head of the medical aid group Doctors Without Borders said surgical equipment, antibiotics, fuel and other supplies were running out at two hospitals it runs in Gaza as well.

In a briefing Tuesday, army spokesperson Lt. Col. Richard Hecht had suggested Palestinians should try to leave through the Rafah border crossing into Egypt.

The prospect of an exodus of Gazans into its territory has alarmed Egyptian officials. After Hecht’s comments, the Egyptian state-owned Al-Qahera news channel, which is close to security agencies, quoted an unnamed security official pushing back.

“The occupation government is forcing Palestinians to choose between dying under bombardment or leaving their land,” the official was quoted as saying.

Meanwhile, in the West Bank, Palestinians entered a fourth day under severe movement restrictions. Israeli authorities have sealed off crossings to the territory and closed checkpoints, blocking movement between cities and towns. Clashes between rock-throwing Palestinians and Israeli forces in the territory since the start of the Hamas onslaught have left 15 Palestinians dead, according to the UN.

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