By NAJIB JOBAIN and SAMY MAGDY (Associated Press)
KHAN YOUNIS, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israel faced pressure Wednesday from some of its closest allies over the plight of civilians in Gaza, where thousands of people left the northern enclave on foot due to food shortages and water and fear of approaching Israeli forces.
More than 70% of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have already left their homes, but the number of people heading south has accelerated recently as Israeli troops fight Hamas inside Gaza City. and the humanitarian situation is becoming increasingly serious. Hamas has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States, Canada and the European Union.
The Group of Seven rich countries announced a unified stance on the war between Israel and Hamas after intense meetings in Tokyo, condemning Hamas and supporting Israel’s right to self-defense. But the group also called Wednesday for the “unhindered” delivery of food, water, medicine and fuel, and “humanitarian pauses” in the fighting.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu left open the possibility of short pauses in delivering humanitarian aid, but ruled out a broader ceasefire unless all hostages are freed.
There is no end in sight to the war sparked by the deadly Oct. 7 Hamas attack inside Israel.
Israel has said the battle to end Hamas rule and crush its military capabilities will be long and difficult, and that it will maintain some form of control over the coastal enclave indefinitely, although it is not yet clear how it will achieve this. Support for the war remains strong inside Israel, where attention has focused on the fate of the more than 240 hostages taken by Hamas and other militant groups.
About 15,000 people fled northern Gaza on Tuesday, triple the number on Monday, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. They are using Gaza’s main north-south highway during a daily four-hour period announced by Israel.
Those fleeing include children, elderly people and people with disabilities, and most were walking with minimal belongings, the U.N. agency said. Some say they had to pass through Israeli checkpoints, where they saw people arrested, while others raised their hands in the air and raised white flags as they passed Israeli tanks.
Hundreds of trucks carrying aid have been allowed to enter Gaza from Egypt since October 21, but aid workers say that is not enough.
“Right now there is an ocean of need in Gaza, and what has been arriving is a drop in the ocean. We need fuel, we need water, we need food and we need medical supplies,” said Dominic Allen of the United Nations Population Fund, speaking from the West Bank.
Residents reported loud explosions overnight Wednesday in Gaza City and its Shati refugee camp, which houses Palestinian families who fled or were expelled from what is now Israel during the 1948 war that surrounded its settlement. .
“The shelling was intense and close,” said Mohamed Abed, who lives in Gaza City.
The Israeli army’s top spokesman, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, said late Tuesday that ground forces had reached “deep into Gaza City.” The military said Wednesday that he killed one of Hamas’ top developers of rockets and other weapons, without saying where he was killed.
Hamas has denied that Israeli troops have made significant progress or entered Gaza City. It was not possible to independently confirm either side’s battlefield claims.
Israel is focusing its operations on the city, which was home to about 650,000 people before the war and where the military says Hamas has its central command and a labyrinth of tunnels. Hundreds of thousands of people have followed Israeli orders in recent weeks to flee the north, where the city is located, although Israel also routinely attacks what it says are militant targets in the south, often killing civilians.
However, tens of thousands of Palestinians remain in the north, many of them sheltering in UN hospitals or schools. The north has been without running water for weeks and the U.N. aid office said the last functioning bakeries closed Tuesday for lack of fuel, water and flour. Hospitals that are running out of supplies are performing surgeries, including amputations, without anesthesia, he said.
Majed Haroun, who lives in Gaza City, said women and children go door-to-door asking for food, while those in shelters rely on local donations.
Ameer Ghalban, pushing an elderly relative in a wheelchair along Gaza’s main road, said the two had each lived on a piece of bread a day for the past three. “Most people have abandoned their land because the siege has become absolute in Gaza. We have no water, no electricity, no flour,” he said.
The situation is not much better in the south, where hundreds of thousands of displaced people are crammed into makeshift shelters. At one o’clock, 600 people must share a single bathroom, according to the UN office.
An Israeli airstrike hit a family home in the Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza on Wednesday, killing at least 18 people and wounding dozens more, according to Iyad Abu Zaher, director of the nearby Al Martyrs Hospital. -Aqsa, where the dead and wounded are found. were brought. He said the death toll could rise as doctors and first responders search through the rubble.
A month of relentless bombing in Gaza since the Hamas attack has killed more than 10,500 Palestinians, two-thirds of them women and children, according to the Health Ministry in the Hamas-controlled territory. More than 2,300 people are believed to have been buried in attacks that in some cases have demolished entire city blocks.
More than 1,400 people have been killed in Israel since the start of the war, most of them civilians killed by Hamas terrorists during their raid. Dozens of hostages were also taken that day. Israel says 32 of its soldiers have been killed in Gaza since the ground offensive began and that Palestinian militants have continued to fire rockets into Israel daily.
Israeli officials say thousands of Palestinian militants have been killed and blame Hamas for the civilian deaths, accusing it of putting civilians at risk by operating in residential areas. The Gaza Health Ministry does not distinguish between civilians and combatants in its casualty reports.
The war has stoked broader tensions, with Israel and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah exchanging fire along the border. More than 160 Palestinians have been killed in the Israeli-occupied West Bank since the war began, mainly during violent protests and shootouts with Israeli forces during arrest raids. Some 250,000 Israelis have been forced to evacuate their communities along the borders with Gaza and Lebanon.
Magdy reported from Cairo. Associated Press writer Amy Teibel in Jerusalem contributed to this report.
Complete AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war