Israel intensifies attacks on southern Gaza, safe havens dwindling for Palestinians - as it happened

Ahram Online , Tuesday 5 Dec 2023

On the 60th day of the war, Israeli forces increased airstrikes and ground attacks in the south of the densely populated Gaza strip including areas where Tel Aviv had told people to seek shelters, killing and wounding dozens of Palestinians. The death toll has exceeded 16,000 and the Palestinians are running out of safe places to go.

A Palestinian man mourns the death of a loved one following Israeli bombardment in the southern Gaza Strip on December 5, 2023, in Khan Yunis. AFP


22:25 Israel’s army chief has confirmed that Israel is considering flooding Hamas’ tunnels in Gaza with seawater to destroy the militant group’s underground network. Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi said flooding the tunnels could be a “good idea” and that it was “one of a number of options we are considering.”

Hamas is believed to have a sprawling network of tunnels it uses to move fighters, weapons and supplies throughout Gaza. Israel has said it already has destroyed hundreds of tunnel sections during the war. It is unclear if flooding the tunnels with seawater could threaten Gaza’s already overtaxed underground freshwater aquifer or potentially damage soil with salt and hazardous materials.

21:10 The Israeli army said on Tuesday that 82 soldiers had been killed since the start of its war on the Gaza Strip.

19:40 The United States has pledged an additional $21 million in humanitarian assistance for Gaza to help establish a field hospital.

The aid was announced Tuesday by Samantha Power, who heads the U.S. Agency for International Development, during a visit to the Egyptian city of el-Arish.

The city is some 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Gaza’s western border and has become the drop-off point for international aid before it’s packed in trucks and transported to the besieged enclave. The war between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers has forced many of the territory’s hospitals to close.

Power also reiterated that the U.S was committed to boosting aid and protecting civilians as Israel presses ahead with its offensive.

“Military operations need to be conducted in a way that distinguishes fighters from civilians,” Power said.

The U.S., a close ally of Israel, has backed Israel’s offensive but urged Israel to reduce civilian casualties. It has also called for humanitarian pauses to ease the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza.

A weeklong cease-fire that ended Friday saw an uptick in aid enter Gaza, including fuel. Since Oct. 7., a trickle of aid has flowed intermittently into Gaza through Egypt’s Rafah border crossing.

19:25 The Israeli war on Gaza has killed at least 16,249 people in the Gaza Strip, the Hamas government media office said Tuesday.

18:00 Israeli shelling hit an army post in south Lebanon on Tuesday, killing one soldier and wounding three others, the Lebanese army said.

Hezbollah said in a statement that it had fired guided missiles at a group of Israeli soldiers in Manara in northern Israel in retaliation for the killing of the soldier. The militant group also claimed an earlier drone attack on an Israeli position in Metula.

It was the first report of a death of a Lebanese army soldier during the clashes between the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and Israeli forces on the border against the backdrop of the Israel-Hamas war. The Lebanese army has not been an active party in the conflict.

The Israeli shelling hit an army post on Oweida hill, near the border village of Odaisseh, the army said in a statement.

Hezbollah said its fighters had attacked four Israeli army positions along the border, scoring “direct hits.” The Israeli military said a number of attacks were launched from Lebanon into northern Israel on Tuesday, and that the missiles fell in open areas.

15:55 An Amnesty International investigation has revealed that US-made Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) were used in two separate air attacks on civilian homes in Gaza.

The rights watchdog has called for the attacks that killed 19 children, 14 women, and 10 men to be investigated as war crimes.

The two homes were in Wadi Gaza, where the Israeli occupation army had ordered residents of northern Gaza to evacuate to on 13 October.

"The fact that US-made munitions are being used by the Israeli military in unlawful attacks with deadly consequences for civilians should be an urgent wake-up call to the Biden administration. The US-made weapons facilitated the mass killings of extended families," said Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s secretary general.

"Two families have been decimated in these strikes, further proof that the Israeli military is responsible for unlawfully killing and injuring civilians in its bombardment of Gaza."

15:51 The UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) said it is unable to provide for newly displaced people in Rafah

Thomas White, UNRWA’s Gaza chief, said that the Israeli army is telling people to leave eastern Khan Younis, calling it a “dangerous fighting zone.”

“They tell people to move to Rafah to receive assistance – but we are not able to provide for 100,000s of new IDPs [internally displaced people],” he said on X.

The agency had previously said that half a million people could be displaced to Rafah.

“Rafah normally has a population of 280,000 and already hosting around 470,000 IDPs will not cope with a doubling of its IDP population,” White said earlier.

15:45 Turkish President Recep Erdoğan said Israel should not be allowed to “get away” with its crimes committed in Gaza.

"The loss of life of 17,000 Palestinians, mostly children and women, is a crime against humanity and a war crime. Israel should not get away with these crimes," he said.

Addressing the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit in Doha, Erdogan accused Benjamin Netanyahu of putting the entire region in danger for his alleged political survival.

"The Netanyahu administration is endangering the security and future of our entire region in order to extend its political life," he said.

The UN has previously said the siege of Gaza may constitute collective punishment, a war crime; the International Committee of the Red Cross has agreed.

Amnesty International said it has "documented unlawful Israeli attacks, including indiscriminate attacks, which caused mass civilian casualties and must be investigated as war crimes."

15:02 The death toll of Palestinians killed in Israeli attacks has reached 15,900, the Palestinian Ministry of Health announced.

Of those killed, more than 250 were health workers, Health Minister Mai Al-Kaila said.

14:35 Al-Quds Brigades released footage of combat against Israeli forces east of Khan Younis.

14:25 A number of Palestinians were injured after the Israeli army opened fire on them on Salah Al-Din Street in the middle of Strip.

In the south, about 43 bodies were brought to Nasser Hospital in the city of Khan Younis, the spokesperson for the health ministry in Gaza told Reuters from the hospital.

Reuters journalists reported seeing injured people arriving by ambulance, car, flatbed truck, and donkey cart. 

Survivors said a strike hit a school being used as a shelter for the displaced.

Almost every inch of floor space was taken up by the wounded.

A doctor carried the limp body of a small boy in a tracksuit, placing him in a corner. 

On the floor next to him, a wounded boy and girl lay surrounded by discarded bandages and rubber gloves. 

Two young girls covered in dust were being treated, with one sobbing: "My parents are under the rubble. I want my mum, I want my mum, I want my family."

Outside the hospital, men carried corpses in shrouds to be taken away for funerals. 

Twenty-six out of 35 hospitals in Gaza are currently out of service, and 52 out of 72 primary healthcare clinics have been shut down.

13:40 Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Samantha Power arrived at the Egyptian city of Arish, which is the international humanitarian assistance hub.

She is due to meet with local officials and Egyptian and international humanitarian organizations working to accelerate the pace of vital aid into Gaza.

According to USAID, the Administrator accompanied an aid delivery of 36,000 pounds of food assistance and medical supplies airlifted, at USAID’s request, by the US Department of Defense from Amman, Jordan, to Arish.

13:15 President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi affirmed on Tuesday Egypt's full readiness to receive and coordinate all international aid directed to the Gaza Strip, during a meeting with his Cypriot counterpart Nikos Christodoulides in Cairo.

El-Sisi also reviewed Egypt's efforts to achieve a ceasefire in the besieged strip, urging the international community to assume its role in this regard, according to Egypt's Presidential Spokesman Counselor Ahmed Fahmy

13:11 UNICEF Spokesman James Elder has warned of the "horrendous" humanitarian situation facing the Palestinians in Gaza, saying the so-called safe zones pointed to by Israel are "anything but safe."

He said on Sky News that "this war on children in the south is every bit as ferocious as at any time we've seen during this war."

He said despite Israel's promises of safe zones, a zone is only safe when there is access to food, water, and protection - and those needs were not being met. 

Elder said there were situations such as 30,000 people on a street corner without a drop of water and no toilets. 

The conditions are a "perfect storm for disease," he said, and the number of children killed by Israeli strikes risks being matched by deaths by disease.

The Palestinians are being "pushed to these zones that are anything but safe," he added.


12:42 Israel's occupation army said it will take a "local tactical pause" in Rafah, in southern Gaza until 2pm. 

The pause will allow humanitarian aid to pass through, it said. 

The army said residents have been ordered not to use the Salah Al-Din Road - the main highway of the Gaza Strip - and were redirected to other routes.

Earlier, the UN warned the road had been cut off to trucks, meaning vital supplies were unable to reach their destination. 

12:30  The United Nations warned Tuesday that it was impossible to create so-called safe zones for civilians to flee to inside the Gaza Strip amid Israel's bombing campaign.

"The so-called safe zones... are not scientific, they are not rational, they are not possible, and I think the authorities are aware of this," James Elder, spokesman for the UN children's agency UNICEF, told reporters in Geneva via video-link from Cairo.

12:17 Qatar's emir hit out at what he labeled "shameful" international inaction over the Israeli war on Gaza as he opened a Gulf Cooperation Council meeting in Doha.

"It is shameful for the international community to allow this heinous crime to continue for nearly two months, during which the systematic and deliberate killing of innocent civilians continues, including women and children," Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani said.

Sheikh Tamim described Israel’s war on Gaza as a "genocide" saying Israel’s occupation forces have violated all political, ethical, and humanitarian values.

He further stated that the principle of self-defense cannot be applied to Israel as an occupying authority.

11:55 The World Health Organization voiced concern as Israeli bombing intensifies in southern Gaza. 

"The situation is getting worse by the hour," Richard Peeperkorn, WHO representative for the occupied Palestinian territory, said.

"There's intensified bombing going on all around, including here in the southern areas, Khan Younis, and even in Rafah," he added.

11:00 The Kremlin announced that Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia on Wednesday and that Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi will visit Russia on Thursday to hold talks with Putin.

10:30 Half a million people could be displaced to Rafah, Thomas White, the director of UNRWA Affairs in Gaza, said in a post on X.

"Rafah that normally has a population of 280K and already hosting around 470K internally displaced persons will not cope with a doubling of its internally displaced population," he wrote.

White explained that the water and sanitation infrastructure for those 280,000 people in Rafah will not even come close to providing for the displaced population that could reach a million people.

These are new scenes of the forced displacement of residents of the city of Khan Yunis to Rafah.

The situation in Gaza is a "textbook formula for epidemics and a public health disaster," a United Nations official said.

Lynn Hastings, the humanitarian coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory, said shelters are full, the health system is "on its knees," and there is a shortage of clean drinking water and no proper sanitation.

She added, in a statement, that nutrition is also lacking for people "already mentally and physically exhausted."

"If possible, an even more hellish scenario is about to unfold, one in which humanitarian operations may not be able to respond," Hastings said.

"The two most important routes – the coastal road and Salah Al-Din Road – are now cut off to our teams and trucks, hindering our ability to help people wherever they are."

On Monday, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), said the US must call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, in an open letter to US President Joe Biden.

In its letter, MSF said: "The way Israel is prosecuting this war is causing massive death and suffering among Palestinian civilians and is inconsistent with international norms and laws."

"Subjecting an entire population to collective punishment is a war crime under international humanitarian law," MSF added.

"The US government has a responsibility, as a partner and ally of the Israeli government, to ensure that its support is not used to kill civilians, attack hospitals and medical staff, destroy cities, and forcibly displace civilians."

10:10 Egypt’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry is heading to Washington DC Tuesday to meet with a number of members of the US House of Representatives and the US Senate, in an effort to stop the ongoing Israeli war on the Gaza Strip.

Shoukry will then join the Arab-Mulsim ministerial delegation to visit DC on Thursday, where they will meet with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, several Congress members, and the US media.

10:00 The Palestinians mourn the death of loved ones following Israeli bombardment in the southern Gaza Strip on 5 December.

9:30 Turkey’s state-run news agency says Turkish intelligence officials have warned their Israeli counterparts of “serious consequences” if they attempt to target members of Hamas on Turkish soil.

The warning, reported by the Anadolu Agency, came after Ronen Bar, the head of Israel’s domestic security agency Shin Bet, said in an audio recording that his organization is prepared to destroy Hamas “in every place,” including in Lebanon, Turkey, and Qatar.

Anadolu Agency, quoting unnamed Turkish intelligence officials, said “necessary warnings were made” to Israeli officials who were told their actions would “have serious consequences.”

The agency also quoted the officials as saying that Turkey had prevented “illegal activities” by foreign operatives in the past and that no foreign intelligence agency would be allowed to carry out operations on Turkish territory.

Israel’s Mossad spy agency has been accused of involvement in a series of assassinations overseas of Palestinian militants and Iranian nuclear scientists over the years.

Turkey has hosted Hamas officials and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said his government considers Hamas to be a liberation organization, not a terrorist group.

9:10 Israel has killed at least 15,899 people in Gaza, predominantly women and children, and wounded 42,000 more, according to the latest toll. 

Medical sources announced that at least 40 Palestinian civilians were killed and dozens were injured in Israeli airstrikes that targeted the city of Khan Younis in southern Gaza.

The sources, cited by the Palestinian news agency WAFA added that 10 other civilians were killed in an Israeli bombing that targeted a house in the Nuseirat camp in central Gaza.

They indicated that occupation artillery and drones bombed the vicinity of Kamal Adwan Hospital in Jabalia Camp.


Since 7 October, Israeli forces have also killed at least 260 in the occupied West Bank, including 65 children, wounded 3,365, and detained thousands more.

Israeli forces killed a Palestinian man during a raid in the Qalandiya refugee camp north of occupied Jerusalem, WAFA reports.

Mohammad Yousef Manasra, 25, was killed when Israeli forces blew up the door to his home Tuesday morning, according to witnesses quoted by WAFA. 

9:00 Israeli jets targeted the Bureij refugee camp, in the Deir Al-Balah neighbourhood in central Gaza, around 6:05am.

The strikes led to a total “state of panic,” an Al Jazeera correspondent reported.

More than 15 people were killed, including children. Many are still trapped under the rubble as at least 15 houses were “completely destroyed.” 

Residents are now working with their bare hands to rescue victims. 

Israeli forces have expanded their ground operations into the southern regions of the Gaza Strip, engaging in combat on the outskirts of Bani Suhaila, east of Khan Younis.

Reports from Palestinian officials claimed that Israeli jets deployed white phosphorus bombs in the northern and eastern parts of Khan Younis, a likely reference to white phosphorous artillery projectiles. 

Simultaneously, more than 15 Palestinians were killed after Israeli attacks on a number of homes in Jabalia Al-Balad, north of the Gaza Strip.

Satellite photos analyzed Tuesday by The Associated Press show that the Israeli military has begun its ground offensive in the southern reaches of the Gaza Strip.

The satellite photos released by Planet Labs PBC provide the first clear look at the intensity and scope at which the Israelis are fighting.

The images, shot Sunday by Planet, show Israeli tanks and armored personnel carriers just under 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) north of the heart of Khan Younis, the major city of the southern part of Gaza. Many who fled the Israeli ground incursion and airstrike brutal attacks in Gaza City's north now live around Khan Younis and other nearby areas after the Israeli military forced them to evacuate.

The Israeli deployment sits just to the west of Salah al-Din, a main north-south corridor within the Gaza Strip that many used to flee.

An AP analysis found positions in four clusters, with a total of around 150 armored personnel carriers, tanks, and other vehicles in the area. Israeli soldiers have created packed dirt berms around some of their positions.

Fresh tank tracks could be seen chewed through the ground there, suggesting the movements were recent.


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