Israel bombs Gaza as UN warns of looming famine

AFP , Saturday 6 Jan 2024

Israel bombed Gaza on Saturday as the United Nations warned the Palestinian territory has become "uninhabitable" and "famine is around the corner" after three months of Israel's war that threatens to engulf the wider region.

Rockets are launched by Palestinian militants from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, in Gaza
Rockets are launched by Palestinian militants from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, in Gaza. AP


AFP correspondents reported Israeli strikes early Saturday on Gaza's southern city of Rafah, where hundreds of thousands of people have sought shelter from the bombing.

Civilians continue to bear the brunt of the conflict, with the UN warning of a deepening humanitarian crisis as famine looms and disease spreads.

Abu Mohammed, 60, who fled to Rafah from the central Bureij refugee camp, told AFP Gaza's future was "dark and gloomy and very difficult".

With much of the territory already reduced to rubble, UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths said Friday that "Gaza has simply become uninhabitable".

Griffiths said that Gaza’s 2.3 million people face “daily threats to their very existence” while the world just watches.

He said tens of thousands of people, mostly women and children, have been killed or injured, families are sleeping in the open as temperatures plummet and areas where Palestinians were told to relocate have been bombed.

Griffiths said: “People are facing the highest levels of food insecurity ever recorded [and] famine is around the corner.”

The few partly functioning hospitals are overwhelmed and critically short of supplies, medical facilities are under relentless attack, infectious diseases are spreading and amid the chaos about 180 Palestinian women are giving birth every day.

The UN's children's agency warned that the Israeli war on Gaza, malnutrition and a lack of health services had created "a deadly cycle that threatens over 1.1 million children" in the Palestinian territory.

Israeli forces were continuing "to fight in all parts of the Gaza Strip, in the north, centre and south", Israeli military spokesman Daniel Hagari said late Friday.

Hagari said Israeli forces were maintaining a "very high state of readiness" near the border with Lebanon following Israel's assassination of a top Hamas commander in a strike in Beirut.

Israel has not claimed responsibility for the strike, but a US defence official told AFP that Israel carried it out.

Israeli war on Gaza rages 

AFP correspondents reported Friday that Israeli strikes had hit the southern cities of Khan Younis and Rafah as well as parts of central Gaza.

A hospital in the central city of Deir al-Balah reported that 35 people had been killed there.

The Israeli army said its forces had "struck over 100 targets" across Gaza in the previous 24 hours, including military positions, rocket launch sites and weapons depots.

The health ministry in the Palestinian territory said it had recorded 162 deaths over the same period.

A fighter jet bombed the central area of Bureij overnight, killing Palestinian resistance fighters.

And a number of Palestinian militants were killed in clashes in Khan Younis, a city that has become a major battleground, the occupation army said.

AFPTV footage on Friday showed entire families, seeking safety from the war, arriving in Rafah in overloaded cars and on foot, pushing handcarts stacked with possessions.

"We fled Jabalia camp to Maan (in Khan Younis) and now we are fleeing from Maan to Rafah," said one woman who declined to give her name. "(We have) no water, no electricity and no food."

The Palestinian Red Crescent reported renewed Israeli shelling and drone fire in the area around Al-Amal hospital in Khan Younis after killing seven displaced people, including a five-day-old baby, while sheltering in the compound.

"We are facing a humanitarian catastrophe due to the spread of epidemics, with the hospital overcrowded with displaced people," said a spokesman for Al-Aqsa Martyrs hospital in central Gaza.

French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna, meanwhile, slammed a proposal by two Israeli ministers to resettle Gazans outside the territory.

"It's not up to Israel to determine the future of Gaza, which is Palestinian land," Colonna told CNN on Friday.

Diplomatic push 

Top Western diplomats were in the region as part of a fresh push to raise the flow of aid into the besieged territory and calm rising tensions.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was in Turkey on Saturday where he was due to discuss the Israeli war on Gaza with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Blinken will also visit several Arab states before heading to Israel and the occupied West Bank next week.

During his visit, Blinken plans to discuss with Israeli leaders "immediate measures to increase substantially humanitarian assistance to Gaza", State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said.

The EU's top diplomat Josep Borrell travelled to Lebanon on Friday for talks on "all aspects of the situation in and around Gaza", including escalating tensions with Israel.

Germany's top diplomat, Annalena Baerbock, was also due to travel to the region, a foreign ministry spokesman said.

She plans to discuss "the dramatic humanitarian situation in Gaza" and tensions on the Israel-Lebanon border, spokesman Sebastian Fischer said.

The Israeli war on Gaza and almost daily exchanges of cross-border fire between Israel and Lebanon's Hezbollah group since October 7 have raised fears of a wider conflagration.

Those fears grew this week following the Israeli's assassination of Hamas deputy leader Saleh al-Aruri in Hezbollah's stronghold in the southern suburbs of Beirut.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah warned Israel on Friday that the group would swiftly respond "on the battlefield" to Aruri's death.


* This story has been edited by Ahram Online.

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