Israel Leila Warah Palestine

‘Operation Al-Aqsa Flood’ Day 24: Israel the Enters Second Phase of Its War on Gaza

The Israeli army continues its gradual move into Gaza as part of its ground offensive, while Hezbollah gradually escalates cross-border attacks and the humanitarian disaster in Gaza reaches "breaking point."
Damage in Gaza Strip during the October 2023. Palestinian News & Information Agency (Wafa) in contract with APAimages, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

By Leila Warah / Mondoweiss


Gaza: 8,306 Killed
Occupied West Bank: 119 Killed 

Key Developments

  • Israel began the second phase of its war on Gaza Monday afternoon, which includes a widening of the ground invasion.
  • Hamas released a video of three unidentified hostages, one of whom called on Netanyahu to release Palestinian political prisoners to secure their release; it is unclear whether or not she was coerced to make the statement. 
  • Hamas reports that Israeli tanks were forced to evacuate Gaza City.  
  • According to the International Criminal Court, impeding the delivery of humanitarian aid to the millions of people inside the Gaza Strip may be considered a crime. 
  • More children have been killed in Gaza in three weeks than the global annual total every year since 2019, says NGO Save the Children. 
  • Israeli authorities continue demanding the “immediate” evacuation of Al-Quds Hospital. 
  •  5,200 pregnant women and over 30,000 babies under 6 months old have had to resort to drinking contaminated and salty water, reported Haaretz.
  • At least 6 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank over the last 24 hours. 
  • In Northern areas of the Gaza Strip, Israel has imposed a complete communication and internet blackout, according to Al Jazeera. 
  • According to a ballistic analysis by Reporters Without Borders, the killing of Reuters journalist Issam Abdullah in Lebanon on October 13th was a targeted strike from the direction of the Israeli border. 

On Monday afternoon, Israel began the second phase of its war on Gaza, which continues to unfold after Israeli bombardment continued from Sunday night and into Monday morning, reportedly focusing on the north of the Gaza Strip, where Israeli forces have attempted to advance. The bombardment killed dozens of people. 

Both Hamas and Israel reported Israeli army tanks approaching the outskirts of Gaza City, where witnesses told AFP they blocked an essential road that links the north of the Gaza Strip to the south. Similarly, Al Jazeera reported that Israeli tanks are dividing Gaza into two parts after their incursion towards Salah al-Din Street, a vertical road running through Gaza. Al Jazeera reports that developments on the ground indicate that Israeli forces intend to expand their ground attacks and completely isolate Gaza. However, according to the head of the Hamas government office in Gaza, the tanks have now retreated. 

“There’s absolutely no ground advance inside the residential neighborhoods in the Gaza Strip. What happened on Salah al-Din Street was the incursion of a few occupation army tanks and a bulldozer,” Salama Maarouf said in a statement.

“These vehicles targeted two civilian cars on Salah al-Din Street and bulldozed the street before the resistance forced them to retreat. There is currently no presence of occupation army vehicles on Salah al-Din Road, and citizen movement has returned to normal on the road.”

Earlier, the Qassam Brigades said it launched mortar attacks east of the Gaza Strip on the Israeli settlement of Nirim. They also released a statement on Telegram saying its fighters carried out a rocket attack on the settlement of Ashdod and fired a Mutabar short-range missile on an Israeli drone.  

Leading up to the second phase of their offensive, the Israeli military continued ordering Palestinians in the north of the Gaza Strip to evacuate to the south “for their personal safety.” However, it is crucial to note that the military has continued its bombardment of all areas of the besieged enclave, including the south, meaning that nowhere in the strip is safe. 

“Israel will not score a victory at the expense of the Palestinian people,” Al Jazeera Arabic quoted Daoud Shehab, a senior leader in the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement, saying while pledging that the group’s fighters will continue fighting as Israeli forces expand their ground operations.

Israeli media reported that Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant told the families of the captives in Gaza that the ground invasion “is intertwined with the effort to return the kidnapped.”

“I have two goals: to return the abductees and win the war, the return of the abductees and locating the missing is a task of utmost importance,” he continued. 

As Israel’s ground invasion expands, a video from the hostages was released by Hamas. The video portrayed an unidentified women sitting between two young girls, addressing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and blaming him for their captivity. 

“All this is because of you, no army was there to protect us on October 7, no one came to help us,” she says according to Al Jazeera’s translation of the video. 

The unidentified woman goes on to demand the release of all the Palestinian political prisoners in exchange for the captives in Gaza to be released, while referencing Netanyahu’s promise to the families of the captives to rescue the prisoners. It remains unclear whether or not she was coerced into making the statement. 

On Monday morning, Israel’s army reported that it had hit at least 600 targets in its “continued” expansion of ground operations inside Gaza. It also said that it was targeting areas around Al-Azhar University, from which it claims an anti-tank missile was about to be launched. 

On Sunday, Israel claimed that it killed several Palestinians near the Beit Hanoun crossing as they tried to cross into Israel. Similarly, Hamas says its fighters have attacked the area several times, killing several Israeli soldiers. Neither reports have been confirmed. 

Over the past three weeks, relatively contained cross-border exchanges between Israel and armed groups in southern Lebanon have continued; however, in recent days, Hezbollah tactics have been evolving. 

Hezbollah fired rockets from southern Lebanon yesterday deeper into Israel, no longer confined to the two or three km range near the border, and even targeting a settlement as opposed to a military base, reports al Jazeera. Similarly, Israel has targeted areas deeper inside Lebanon..  

Thousands break into UNRWA warehouses out of desperation 

As humanitarian aid continues to trickle into the Gaza Strip, Palestinians are underscoring that it is not nearly enough for the population of over 2 million who have been under constant bombardment for three weeks. 

On Sunday, 33 humanitarian aid trucks containing water, food, and medical supplies entered Gaza through the Rafah crossing, according to the UN’s humanitarian organization OCHA. 

“This is the largest delivery of humanitarian aid since October 21, when limited deliveries resumed,” OCHA said early Monday. 

Thousands of people broke into UNRWA warehouses that day, grabbing flour and other essential items, which the organization says is a sign they’ve reached a “breaking point.”

“This is a worrying sign that civil order is starting to break down after three weeks of war and a tight siege on Gaza,” said Juliette Touma, UNRWA’s director of communications.

“The levels of frustration and despair are really very high and people are hitting rock bottom when it comes to their patience, their ability to take more.”

“Those supplies are very, very little, and they don’t correspond to the huge needs on the ground… We are asking for a standard and regular flow of humanitarian supplies, including fuel, and an increase in the number of trucks on these convoys,” she continued.

The AFP news agency reports that one hundred seventeen aid trucks have entered Gaza since Israel’s offensive began on October 7. Despite hospital pleas, none of these trucks have been allowed to carry fuel into the besieged enclave. 

In contrast, before October 7, Gaza’s population of over 2 million received almost 500 trucks daily. 

The trucks have been limited not only by Israel’s ongoing siege but also by the army’s bombing of the Rafah crossing on multiple occasions. 

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of people in Gaza are drinking contaminated and salty water, including 5,200 pregnant women and over 30,000 babies under six months old; Israeli media reported that an internal U.S. State Department document provided details on the development. While Israel has turned on a limited number of water pipes in Gaza, water remains inaccessible as Israel continues to deny Palestinians in Gaza the electricity and fuel needed for delamination and to operate the water pumps. 

While underscoring the “profound and ongoing” suffering of civilians in Gaza, Karim Khan, International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor, says, “Most fundamentally, there should not be any impediment to humanitarian relief supplies going to children, to women and men, civilians. They are innocent and have rights under international humanitarian law,”

“We need to make sure that the law is on the front lines, and the law is seeing to ameliorate the suffering of so many at this moment living in terror and frightened and have a right to be protected by the institutions built after the Second World War,” he said in an address from the Rafah border crossing. 

Elad Goren of COGAT, the Israeli Defence Ministry agency that coordinates with the Palestinians, said, “In the coming week, the quantity of trucks [carrying aid] will increase significantly.”

According to Goren, they have “marked a humanitarian zone in the southern Gaza Strip, in the Khan Younis area.”

Meanwhile, Israel’s UN ambassador is calling on the international community to cease their funding to the UN after they passed a non-binding resolution that called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. 

“Every honest country should defund the UN. Until the bias stops and the anti-Semitism stops, we can no longer continue business as usual,” he told Fox News.

Israel is still targeting hospitals 

Al Quds hospital, which is filled with patients and displaced people seeking refuge, is still under threat. On Sunday, Israeli authorities ordered their evacuation “immediately.” 

Al Jazeera says that although the hospital is not being directly hit, the areas around it are being targeted, causing fear and distress among patients. They also reported that the director of the hospital refuses to evacuate as it could result in the death of patients, including premature babies. He says there are around 14,000 people inside the hospital. 

The hospital, which is affiliated with the Palestinian Red Crescent Society and located in Tal al-Hawa, Gaza City, says they have received five warnings from the Israeli authorities to evacuate, including ones that have said the premises will be bombed imminently. 

The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) says the evacuation notice is “deeply concerning.”

“We reiterate – it’s impossible to evacuate hospitals full of patients without endangering their lives,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO, said on X.

However, Medical staff say there is nowhere for them to evacuate to and no hospitals available for a patient transfer amid Israel’s continued bombardment of Gaza. 

“I know the Al-Quds Hospital from the time it was built. There is a new medical block in Al-Shifa Hospital under international surveillance. During all these years having worked in these hospitals, I have never ever seen any sign of any military or political command centre. And if the Israelis…cannot provide any evidence or any proof, how can we look at this as anything else but lies, intimidating and scaring people, and excuses to bomb the hospitals,” Mads Gilbert, a medical professional at the hospital, said, according to Al Jazeera. 

“These hospitals are cornerstones of the welfare and the healthcare for 2.2 million people.”

The world is concerned

As Israel continues to wage war on Gaza’s population, killing record numbers of civilians and denying those still alive essential life-saving supplies, the world is growing increasingly concerned. 

The U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told CBS News on Sunday that Israel has an obligation under international law to protect the lives of civilians.  

“We have seen thousands of Palestinian civilians killed in this conflict. That is a tragedy. Each and every one of those individual deaths is a tragedy, and that the life of every civilian — Palestinian, Israeli — is sacred and has to be protected,”

“It is important for Israel to distinguish between going after terrorist targets, to take out terrorists who continue to threaten Israel, and going after civilians. That is an obligation and a responsibility for Israel. And it’s something that we will continue to press them on,” Sullivan asserted to the U.S. media outlet. 

Al Jazeera reported that the cousin of an Israeli believed to be one of the captives in Gaza told a crowd of people rallying in Washington DC that Israel’s priority has to be the freedom of those being held captive in Gaza, not a conflict with Hamas. 

“We’ve had enough bloodshed. Stop the missiles and the rockets. Stop the bombings. You must avoid any action that could hurt hostages. Start looking for solutions that would allow both Israeli and Palestinian families to live their lives peacefully. That will put an end to the endless cycle of hurt and sorrow,” Atzili said, according to CNN. “But first, bring them all back home, bring all the hostages back home.”

Majed al-Ansari, Qatar’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson, told CNN that they are exploring all possibilities for a de-escalation in the ongoing conflict as well as the release of the captives from the Gaza Strip. 

However, he highlights that it is impossible for the captives to safely move out of Gaza with Israel’s constant bombardment of the besieged enclave.

Al-Ansari says the best scenario is for a period of calm to allow captives to be taken out of Gaza while simultaneously allowing humanitarian aid to go in.

On Sunday, Norway’s Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store described Israel’s response to Hamas’s attack on October 7 as disproportionate. 

“International law stipulates that it [reaction] must be proportionate. Civilians must be taken into account, and humanitarian law is very clear on this. I think this limit has been largely exceeded,” Israel’s need to defend itself through methods that also protect civilians, says the White House. 

Biden also “underscored the need to immediately and significantly increase the flow of humanitarian assistance to meet the needs of civilians in Gaza.”

All Palestinians are the enemy, wherever they live. 

In the occupied West Bank, major Israeli military raids have been reported in the cities of Jenin, Nablus, and Qalqiliya, in addition to Dheisheh refugee camp and Silwan in occupied East Jerusalem, where Israeli forces continue to detain Palestinians and have killed at least six Palestinians in the last 24 hours. 

According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, in the Jenin refugee camp, Israeli forces killed at least four people and injured five others during a large-scale military invasion. 

Rasmi Arafat, 35, and Hussein Rabi, 29, identified by the health ministry, were also killed by Israeli forces in Askar and Dheisheh refugee camps. 

On Sunday, a leading Israeli security expert told Israeli media that “the threat is not Hamas but the Gazans and the Arabs of Judea and Samaria,” referring to the occupied West Bank.

“As long as the state of Israel does not understand what the threat is — it will not be able to win,” Eliyahu Yossian, a research fellow at Meshgav Institute for National Security and winner of the Israel Defense Prize, told the newspaper in an example of the discourse among Israel’s far-right as the Gaza assault continues.

“If we don’t treat Gaza as an enemy, we will never get out of the rounds and each time it is going to get worse to the point that we reached the acute situation of [the October 7] morning. The state of Israel needs to understand and accept that there are no innocents in Gaza.”

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Leila Warah

Leila Warah is a freelance multimedia journalist based in Palestine.

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