Israel Mondoweiss Palestine

‘Operation Al-Aqsa Flood’ Day 27: Biden Calls for ‘Pause’ for First Time Since Fighting Began

Palestinians are desperate for international intervention to end Israel's ongoing onslaught and siege. President Biden calls for a pause over concern for Israeli captives, as Gaza death toll surpasses 9,000.
Palestinian boy among the rubble. Photo from Flickr by M Mansour from Jan. 11, 2009.

By Leila Warah / Mondoweiss


Gaza: 9,061 Palestinians killed, including 3,760 children. 22,240 injured

West Bank: 134 Palestinians killed

Key Developments

  • For the first time, the US President has called for “a pause,” for the first time since October 7, explaining that it would be used to get the captives out of Gaza. 
  • Egypt said on Thursday they will help evacuate some 7,000 foreign nationals representing over 60 nationalities from the Gaza Strip. 
  • Gaza death toll surpasses 9,000, including 3,760 children
  • Over 670,000 people are sheltering in almost 150 overcrowded UNRWA installations in Gaza and are facing “deteriorating humanitarian conditions and severe health and protection risks,” says UNRWA.
  • Israel bombs the Jabalia refugee camp for a third time on Thursday. 
  • In reference to Israeli airstrikes targeting Jabalia refugee camp, the UN has “serious concerns that these are disproportionate attacks that could amount to war crimes.”
  • Brigadier General Itzik Cohen said Israeli troops were deep in Gaza “at the gates of Gaza City” on Wednesday evening, as Israeli military losses rise amidst ground invasion
  • More press have died in the first few weeks of Israel’s war on Gaza than any other conflict since at least 1992, reports the Committee to Protect Journalists. 
  • The Israeli military claimed to have killed Muhammad A’sar, whom it identified as the head of Hamas’s “anti-tank missile unit” on Thursday.

Israeli airstrikes continued pummeling the Gaza Strip overnight on Wednesday and into Thursday, intensifying the assault on Thursday morning, the 27th day of Israel’s bombardment on Gaza.

One of the targets of their airstrikes was the Jabalia refugee camp, according to Al Jazeera.

The refugee camp has already been hit twice in the last few days, killing almost 200 people, wounding at least 777 others, and sparking international outrage.  

Martin Griffiths, the UN humanitarian chief, said, “This is just the latest atrocity to befall the people of Gaza where the fighting has entered an even more terrifying phase – with increasingly dreadful humanitarian consequences.” 

“The world seems unable, or unwilling, to act. This cannot go on. We need a step change,” he continued. 

Hamas announced that seven captives, including three foreign passport holders, were killed by Israeli airstrikes on Jabalia refugee camp on Tuesday. 

Last week, the group said that “almost 50” Israeli captives had been killed in the near month-long Israeli bombardment. The group has not identified all of the deceased, and how many were military personnel and civilians. 

The Israeli authorities, who have not confirmed the figures, say there are an estimated 240 captives in Gaza. Hamas itself has said that it does not know the location of all the captives, due to the fact that a number of people were taken captive by other active militant groups in Gaza, as well as ordinary Gazans who broke through the fence on October 7th. 

According to Al Jazeera, yet another bakery was targeted by Israeli bombardment on Thursday, a half a mile away from al-Shifa Hospital, Gaza’s main hospital, in the a-Nasr neighborhood of Gaza City in the northern Strip. 

Eleven bakeries have been targeted and destroyed by Israeli airstrikes since October 7, leaving only nine bakeries operational as of Wednesday, according to UNOCHA. People are being “exposed to air strikes” while standing in “hours-long queues,” the organization said.

Israeli warplanes and tanks also fired dozens of missiles and shells toward the Tal al-Hawa neighborhood in southwest Gaza City; several people have reportedly been killed and injured.

Wafa reported that due to the continuous bombardment, ambulances have been unable to reach the area to transport the injured, which will likely lead to even more deaths. 

On Wednesday, The Palestinian Red Crescent (PRC) reported that Israeli forces have been shelling the periphery of al-Quds hospital in Gaza City, “causing a state of panic and fear among the hospital teams and over 14,000 displaced individuals.”

Ashraf al-Qudra, the Palestinian Health Ministry spokesperson, said on Wednesday that Israeli airstrikes hit a maternity ward of a hospital in the Al-Helou International Hospital in Gaza city. 

Israel has “suffocated the healthcare system, stopped the delivery of medical supplies and fuel, and flooded [Al-Shifa] with thousands of wounded people, forcing us to move maternity services to the Al-Helou Hospital and make room for more wounded people,” al-Qudra said.

“Patients must be able to have sustained access to healthcare inside Gaza. Hospitals and other health facilities must be protected from bombardment and military use,” the UN health agency said.

Fuel is the difference between life and death

In between the nonstop bombardment, hospitals, civil services, and bakeries across the Gaza Strip are facing another looming threat, as fuel is running out fast. With no fuel being let into the Strip for close to a month due to Israel’s refusal to allow it in, every day is a struggle to remain operational. 

Early on Thursday, the Indonesian Hospital’s main generator became nonoperational, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. The hospital’s oxygen station, ventilation, morgue, and air-conditioning have all stopped working due to Israel’s continued ban on fuel from entering the besieged enclave.

Officials say the hospital will be able to partially function for a few days on the backup generator before it is forced to shut down completely, which will have deadly effects on patients. 

Similarly, Al Shifa Hospital is at its breaking point. On Wednesday, the hospital’s director delivered a briefing, declaring they are tired of calling on the world for help. 

They explained to the world once again that they have 42 premature babies depending on oxygen machines to survive and 57 kidney dialysis machines, all depending on generators, which are running low on fuel. 

With only a few hours left until the power generators stop, the director called for anyone in Gaza with a liter of fuel to bring it to the hospital. 

“This is a moment of life or death for thousands of people if hospitals stop working. If they don’t get the treatment they need, it is a death sentence for them,” Tarik Jasarevic from the World Health Organization told Al Jazeera. 

“We have medical teams ready to go into Gaza. What we need is an end to hostilities. There has to be some political element. Even if we bring supplies in, as long as there is such relentless bombardment, there will be more casualties. This really has to stop.”

The PRC says they have had to reduce the number of ambulances in operation across the Gaza Strip due to the lack of fuel.

Bakeries have also been affected by Israel’s ongoing ban on fuel, which is making it difficult to bake goods, even when they have flour. 

In a statement on October 24, military spokesman Daniel Hagari announced, “Fuel will not enter the Gaza Strip. Hamas needs it for its operational infrastructure,” reported Haaretz.

“Hamas can return the fuel it stole from UNRWA hospitals.” 

Humanitarian Crisis: no food, no water

After entering the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, Philippe Lazzarini, Commissioner General of UNRWA, visited a school sheltering displaced Palestinians. 

He was “shocked by the fact that everybody there was asking for food, was asking for water. I never, ever have seen something similar in Gaza when I came before after conflicts,”

The UNRWA staff members in the Gaza Strip told him about the critical situation in the besieged enclave, including their lack of fuel, and have pleaded for him to continue calling for a humanitarian ceasefire. 

The UN’s child rights committee is also calling for an immediate ceasefire, saying there are “no winners in a war where thousands of children are killed.”

“The committee calls for an end to the devastating harm being wreaked on children’s lives in the occupied Palestinian territory,” the independent committee, which monitors countries’ adherence to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, said in a statement.

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“We add our voice to those calling for an immediate ceasefire. We urge the immediate release of child hostages, with their caregivers,” the committee said.

“We call on the international community to urgently intervene to stop Israel and protect hospitals, medical staff, and patients before another … massacre is repeated.”

Israeli army makes it deep into Gaza

Israeli forces have been advancing their ground operations inside the Gaza Strip over the last few days, resulting in violent clashes with the armed wing of Hamas and other resistance groups. 

The Israeli army spokesperson announced in a press briefing on Thursday that the fighting in the Gaza Strip has continued and “many” Hamas fighters have been killed, adding that they have also continued their attacks on Hezbollah targets along the border with Lebanon. 

Brigadier General Itzik Cohen said Israeli troops were deep in Gaza “at the gates of Gaza City” on Wednesday evening. 

Cohen told Israeli media that the military had “destroyed much of Hamas’s abilities,” adding that his division had “received an important task, to go and decisively finish Hamas.”

That same day, Hamas fighters said they destroyed four armored Israeli military vehicles in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza.

According to the Israeli military, 332 Israeli soldiers had been killed since October 7. 18 Israeli soldiers have been killed since Israel began its ground invasion in Gaza, reported Al Jazeera. 

Ejaz Haidar, a military analyst, told Al Jazeera that Israel’s “ground incursion” is where it is gradually “losing its metric advantage” to Hamas.

“Urban combat is very tricky,” and Israel is bound to lose its “asymmetric advantage in a ground operation because now “you’re going to go face to face, man to man, street to street”, especially with Israel’s relentless bombardment of the area creating a lot of rubble, tanks and armored vehicles “become very useless because … you’ve got to clear the rubble you’ve created in the first place, and you need to have foot infantry,” he said.

Limited evacuations begin through Rafah

Following over three weeks into Israel’s onslaught, foreign nationals have finally been able to evacuate the Gaza Strip along with a handful of injured Palestinians seeking critical medical care.

On Thursday, Egypt said they will help evacuate about 7,000 foreign nationals representing over 60 nationalities from the Gaza Strip. 

According to UN Middle East envoy Tor Wennesland, around 500 foreign passport holders have already evacuated the Gaza Strip to Egypt through the Rahaf crossing. 

“It is an Important step in the right direction, which we need to build on,” he said on x

The World Health Organization (WHO) welcomed the decision for Egypt to accept 81 injured evacuees from Gaza but stresses that there are still thousands of injured civilians and people with chronic illnesses who need treatment. 

Biden calls for ‘pause’ to evacuate captives

Amid mounting international and at-home pressure for a ceasefire, US President Joe Biden has called for “a pause” for the first time since October 7. 

When noting his desire for a pause in fighting, Biden did not cite the need to preserve Palestinian lives or those of the children of Gaza, almost 4,000 of whom have lost their lives to Israel’s onslaughts so far. He did not mention the desperate need for humanitarian aid or fuel for Gaza’s hospitals either.

“A pause means to give time to get the prisoners out,” Biden said, referring to the captives being held in the besieged enclave. 

“This is incredibly complicated for the Israelis. It’s incredibly complicated for the Muslim world as well. … I supported a two-state solution. I have from the very beginning,” Biden said. 

According to the US State Department, United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken is traveling to Jordan and Israel on Thursday. 

“[Blinken] will reiterate our support for Israel’s right to defend itself, in accordance with international humanitarian law, and discuss the need to take all precautions to minimize civilian casualties, as well as our work to deliver humanitarian assistance,” Matthew Miller, the State Department spokesman, told reporters Wednesday afternoon.

Najib Mikati, the Prime Minister of Lebanon, has been attempting to keep Lebanon away from the ongoing conflict as Hezbollah fighters continue battling Israeli troops along the Lebanon- Israel border. 

Days after Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said the group would “not allow such aggression,” Mikati condemned Israel’s bombardment of Gaza and warned that “time is of the essence” in stopping Israel’s war on Gaza from “going out of control” and affecting Lebanon and the wider region.

“A humanitarian ceasefire for five days is necessary, where there can be active international talks to secure prisoner swaps and reach a permanent truce in order to reach an agreement on the conditions for regional peace,” Mikati said.

Settlers and soldiers rampage unchecked in the West Bank 

The situation across the occupied West Bank continues to intensify as settler violence continues to rampage unchecked, while Israeli forces continue conducting violent and often deadly military invasions in Palestinian towns, villages, and cities. 

On Thursday, the Palestinian Ministry of Health reported two Palestinians were killed in the West Bank during military invasions, including a 15-year-old child in Qalqilya. Over 130 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli soldiers and settlers in the occupied West Bank since October 7. 

Overnight on Wednesday, Israeli forces detained at least 60 Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, according to Al Jazeera. 

Since October 7, over 1,800 Palestinians have been arrested. About half are in administrative detention, being held without charge or trial. 

OCHA reported that at least 98 households (including 828 people, 313 of them children) across the occupied West Bank have been displaced by settler violence or the increased restrictions of movement imposed by Israel since October 7.

Ibrahim Fraihat from the Doha Institute told Al Jazeera that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is only making “statements” as Israel ramps up their attacks not only in Gaza but in the occupied West Bank. 

“He is the President of the Palestinian people, regardless of where they are, and he has fallen way below the level of expectations of what is to come from him. Even when calling for an Arab summit in two weeks, why the wait? What are you waiting for? What is going to happen in these two weeks?” he told Al Jazeera.

“He has taken absolutely no action whatsoever. [It’s] just lip service. 

That’s all he delivered since the aggression started and the bombardment of Gaza.”

Meanwhile, even Palestinians who carry Israeli citizenship are not safe from the wrath of Israel’s right-wing government, as they are being arrested and threatened for speaking out against the ongoing assault on Gaza. “We don’t want to normalize the fact that these extremists are in the government encouraging settler violence. It is not normal, and it is extreme and can get worse, but on the other hand, we shouldn’t exceptionalize this because it is something that has been going on for years,” Dror Sadot, a spokesperson for B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights group, told Mondoweiss.

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Leila Warah

Leila Warah is a freelance multimedia journalist based in Palestine.

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