A first group of civilian evacuees from Gaza crossed into Egypt on Wednesday under a Qatari-mediated deal. At the same time, Israeli forces continued to bomb the Palestinian enclave from land, sea, and air as they pressed their offensive against Hamas militants. Another blast occurred in Jabalia, Gaza’s largest refugee camp, a day after an Israeli air strike killed about 50 people and wounded 150 there. There is no immediate information on possible casualties, but footage showed smoke and people searching through rubble. Eyewitnesses described the scene as a massacre. Additionally, a bomb hit an eye hospital in Gaza City, causing a fire, but details on casualties and damage are not yet available.
The evacuees who were trapped in Gaza since the start of the war more than three weeks ago were driven through the Rafah border crossing to Egypt. They are currently undergoing security checks on the Egyptian side. As part of the deal between Egypt, Israel, and Hamas, around 500 foreign nationals and 81 critically wounded individuals are allowed to leave the besieged territory. However, not all of them will be leaving on Wednesday. The opening of Rafah to the first evacuees was hailed as an important step in the right direction by Tor Wennesland, the United Nations’ Middle East peace envoy.
Despite the progress on the humanitarian front, Israeli war planes, naval boats, and artillery continued to bombard Gaza, causing more casualties among the civilian population. Hospitals are struggling to cope due to fuel shortages caused by Israel’s refusal to allow humanitarian convoys into the enclave, citing concerns of diversion to Hamas fighters. Israel sent ground forces into Hamas-ruled Gaza after weeks of escalating tensions.Israel has launched airstrikes and artillery strikes in response to a cross-border attack by an Islamist group in southern Israel on October 7. Despite Israel’s vow to wipe out Hamas, the civilian death toll in densely populated Gaza and the worsening humanitarian conditions have raised concerns worldwide, as essential resources such as food, fuel, drinking water, and medicine become scarce.
Jordan, one of the few Arab states that have normalized relations with Israel, announced on Wednesday that it was recalling its ambassador from Tel Aviv until Israel ceased its assault on Gaza.
Nahed Abu Taeema, the director of Nasser Hospital in the Gaza Strip, informed RushHourDaily that 19 critically injured patients from his hospital would be among the 81 individuals being evacuated to Egypt. These patients require advanced surgeries that cannot be performed in Gaza due to the lack of capabilities, particularly for women and children.
A Western official disclosed that Israel and Egypt have agreed on a list of individuals with foreign passports who can leave Gaza. An Israeli official confirmed that Israel is coordinating the exits with Egypt.
Egypt has set up a field hospital in Sheikh Zuwayed, and ambulances are waiting at Rafah for the evacuation process.
The agreement to evacuate individuals from Gaza is not connected to other issues, such as the release of approximately 240 hostages held by Hamas since the October 7 assault, or a “humanitarian pause” in the fighting, which many countries have called for but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected.
Indonesia is attempting to evacuate 10 of its nationals, but three volunteers at an Indonesia-run hospital have chosen to stay. The Philippines, Jordan, and Italy also expressed their intention to evacuate their citizens on Wednesday.
According to Israel, Hamas’s surprise ground attack into southern Israel on October 7, which sparked the hostilities, resulted in the deaths of approximately 300 soldiers and 1,100 civilians.
The Gaza health ministry reports that since then, at least 8,796 Palestinians, including 3,648 children, have been killed by Israeli strikes in the narrow coastal enclave.
In the Jabalia camp, adjacent to Gaza City, Palestinian health officials stated that an Israeli airstrike on Tuesday killed about 50 people and injured 150.
The Israeli military confirmed the attack but did not provide further details.The Israeli military announced that it had killed Ibrahim Biari, a Hamas commander who played a crucial role in organizing the October 7 attack, as well as numerous Hamas militants.
Josep Borrell, the European Union foreign policy chief, expressed his shock at the high number of casualties in Jabalia and called on all parties to respect the “laws of war and humanity.”
According to the Israeli military, Hamas deliberately places its fighters in densely populated residential areas, using them as shields for command posts and weapon sites.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh claimed that Israeli hostages held in Gaza were experiencing the same “death and destruction” that Palestinians have endured.
The military confirmed that fifteen Israeli soldiers were killed in the fighting in Gaza on Tuesday, marking the largest single-day loss since the offensive began.
Prime Minister Netanyahu acknowledged the challenges of the war and promised the citizens of Israel that they would persevere until victory is achieved.
Hamas continued to launch rockets across the border, triggering warning sirens in southern Israeli communities and the port cities of Ashkelon and Ashdod.
Israeli ground forces engaged in clashes with Hamas and other groups in various areas of Gaza overnight, with the objective of making incremental gains rather than a full-scale invasion.
Telecommunications provider Paltel reported that communications and internet services were once again cut off in Gaza on Wednesday.
The current violence, the most severe in years of intermittent warfare, comes at a time when Palestinian hopes for an independent state and an end to Israeli occupation seem unlikely to be realized.
Peace talks are a distant memory, and Netanyahu’s right-wing government has expanded Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank. Israel views Hamas, which has vowed to destroy the Jewish state, as an existential threat.
This article was reported by Nidal al-Mughrabi and Emily Rose, with additional reporting by RushHourDaily bureaux. It was written by Angus MacSwan and Gareth Jones, and edited by Louise Heavens, William Maclean, and Mark Heinrich.
Our reporting adheres to The Thomson RushHourDaily Trust Principles.
The author of this article is a senior correspondent with nearly 25 years of experience covering the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, including multiple wars and the signing of the first historic peace agreement between the two sides.
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