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The United States has expressed its strongest disapproval of Israel’s actions in its conflict with Hamas, urging for greater measures to safeguard civilians who are facing attacks in Gaza.
Israel is facing increasing pressure to reduce the rising number of fatalities in the blockaded area, as the UN Security Council prepares to vote on a resolution calling for an urgent ceasefire to address the humanitarian crisis. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stated that Gaza has reached a critical point and that its people are suffering from a devastating humanitarian situation due to Israel’s intensified attacks in the southern region.
According to Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, there is still a discrepancy between Israel’s stated goal of safeguarding civilians and the increasing number of fatalities on the battlefield. During a media briefing about the ongoing campaign in southern Israel, Mr. Blinken emphasized the importance of prioritizing civilian protection, stating that there is currently a gap between the intention and the outcome. In a previous interview with CNN, Mr. Blinken had expressed that a death toll in southern Gaza that matches the number in the northern region should not be tolerated.
According to health authorities in Gaza, over 17,000 individuals have lost their lives since the start of Israeli military actions in response to a Hamas assault on Israel on October 7th. The attack resulted in the deaths of 1,200 people and the capture of 240 others who were taken into Gaza. In addition to airstrikes, tanks and troops have also been deployed in recent weeks, with operations initially focused on the northern region but now extending to the south.
The blockade has caused a shortage of food, water, fuel, and medicine in the Strip, putting the population at risk due to insufficient aid.
Mr Guterres warned that there was a serious risk of starvation and famine, noting that half the people in northern Gaza and more than one third of displaced people in the south were “simply starving”.
The UN secretary general informed the Security Council that the attacks by air, land, and sea were severe, ongoing, and widespread. He also stated that civilians in Gaza are being instructed to constantly relocate in a chaotic manner, without access to essential resources for survival. Israel has urged residents of Gaza to move towards the south, providing designated safe areas, and has consistently expressed its efforts to limit harm to civilians.
Unfortunately, Mr. Guterres announced to the UN Security Council prior to the vote that there was inadequate safeguarding of civilians and no secure location within Gaza.
Residents in the regions where the conflict is most intense informed The Independent that the air strikes were too severe, making it unfeasible to relocate to Rafah, which is still being targeted but relatively less dangerous.
Iman, 25, shared that the bombing is continuous and intense. Some of her family members have already left for Rafah using a car. However, she has been displaced multiple times during the ongoing war and is currently residing with numerous relatives in makeshift housing. They are concerned because they do not have access to a vehicle and evacuating on foot is not feasible, especially for her grandmother. Even if they were able to reach the south, there is no assurance of safety, according to Iman.
Images and videos captured numerous Palestinian men in Gaza who were rounded up by the Israeli military, undressed to their underwear, and publicly marched in different areas.
The initial photos were released from the northern city of Beit Lahiya, depicting numerous men kneeling with their hands tied behind their backs. Additional images depict blindfolded men, also dressed only in their underwear and with bound hands, kneeling on a sandy stretch of land. The Independent has reached out to the Israeli military for a statement but has not yet received a response.
According to Israeli government spokesman Eylon Levy, the individuals detained in northern Gaza on Friday were men of military age who were found in areas where civilians were instructed to evacuate weeks ago. The majority of the pictures seem to have been captured in Jabaliya, a region in northern Gaza that has experienced intense fighting on the streets since Israel restarted its ground offensive last week.
One of the individuals in the photo was identified as Diaa al-Kahlout, who works for the London-based news organization Al-Araby Al-Jadeed. The organization released a statement stating that Mr. Kahlout, along with his brothers, relatives, and other civilians, was detained at a market street in Beit Lahiya and subjected to a humiliating search before being taken to an undisclosed location.
During the UN meeting, Robert Wood, the representative of the US, stated that they do not back an instant ceasefire. He further expressed that although the US is in favor of a lasting peace where both Israelis and Palestinians can coexist peacefully and securely, they do not endorse the idea of an immediate ceasefire.
He stated: “This action would only lead to further conflict as Hamas is not inclined towards achieving lasting peace.” The United States is part of the Security Council’s permanent members and holds the power to veto any resolution for a ceasefire.
The UN’s ambassador for Israel, Gilad Erdan, stated that diplomatic efforts alone cannot guarantee the release of hostages without the use of military pressure on Hamas. In a previous ceasefire, over 100 hostages were traded for 240 Palestinians being held in Israeli prisons.
In the past day, Israel has announced that it has attacked 450 Hamas locations in Gaza, including engaging in close combat within the vicinity of Khan Younis, a city in the southern region. The United Nations has expressed concern over the extensive military actions, stating that it has severely disrupted aid efforts.
As the US continues to back Israel, their focus is shifting towards the increasing global criticism of the dire conditions in Gaza and the mounting number of casualties.
According to Thomas White, the Gaza head of UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestinian Refugees), the situation in Gaza is deteriorating rapidly. The streets are becoming chaotic, especially at night, and there have been reports of looting and attacks on UN vehicles. White believes that society is close to completely collapsing. He shared this information on X, previously known as Twitter.
The UNRWA cautioned that we are approaching a critical moment in Gaza, where the blatant disregard for international humanitarian law deeply affects our shared moral principles.
Hospitals are currently experiencing a high volume of patients, causing doctors to navigate through bodies and distressed individuals to reach each case. The unsanitary conditions, including blood on floors, pose a significant risk for potential complications. The crowded areas in the southern region are also contributing to the fast spread of infectious diseases.
The medical personnel expressed their inability to handle the large number of injured individuals. A large group of people were in need of surgery and were waiting at the European Hospital, situated between Khan Younis and Rafah. The hospital’s ward beds were already occupied, and due to overcrowding, thousands of displaced individuals have resorted to sleeping in the hallways, using sheets to create makeshift tents.
Dr. Tom Potokar, a surgeon for the International Committee of the Red Cross, stated that there is an excessive amount of cases that need specialized care. The number of patients outweighs the available staff and operating room time, making it impossible to attend to all of them.
The truth is, we are witnessing a large number of children who have been severely wounded, crying out in agony and experiencing the loss of their loved ones. It is truly terrifying.
“The healthcare system is in dire straits. Gaza cannot bear the loss of any additional medical facilities, not a single ambulance, nor any more hospitals… not even a single hospital bed,” stated Christian Lindmeier, a spokesperson for the World Health Organisation.