Israel establishes a unity government to manage the conflict provoked by a Hamas offensive as strikes decimate Gaza

The land of Israel and Palestine is more than just a geographic location; it’s a tapestry of cultures and histories that date back thousands of years.

In the darkness of night, Palestinians in Gaza found themselves amidst the remnants of obliterated communities, while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his determination to “annihilate and dismantle” Hamas. This resolve was supported by a newly-formed war council, which included a long-standing opposition critic.

Netanyahu declared in a televised address, “Every member of Hamas faces a grim fate.”

International humanitarian organizations issued warnings of a rising death toll in Gaza, exacerbated by dwindling supplies due to an Israeli blockade. The conflict, triggered by a widespread and bloody incursion by Hamas into Israel, has already claimed the lives of over 2,400 individuals on both sides.

Lieutenant Colonel Richard Hecht, a spokesperson for the Israeli military, informed reporters that they were “preparing for a potential ground operation,” though such a decision had not been made at the political level. A ground assault in Gaza, the first since the 2014 conflict, would undoubtedly result in higher casualties on both sides, particularly in grueling house-to-house combat.

Overnight airstrikes by the Israeli military targeted Hamas’ elite Nukhba forces, including command centers utilized by the militants responsible for the attack on Israel. They also struck the residence of a senior Hamas naval operative believed to be used for storing unspecified weaponry.

“We are currently focused on eliminating their top leadership,” stated Hecht, the military spokesperson. “This includes not just the military hierarchy but also the civilian leadership, extending up to the highest ranks, including Yehiyeh Sinwar.”

The Interior Ministry under Hamas administration reported that Israeli strikes had razed two multi-story residences without warning, resulting in fatalities and injuries to a significant number of individuals, primarily civilians. Hamas had threatened to execute Israeli captives if their attacks harmed Palestinian civilians without warning.

Israel had halted the inflow of essential supplies like food, water, fuel, and medicine into Gaza. By Tuesday, the sole power station in Gaza had exhausted its fuel supply, leading to an outage that extended to lights powered by scattered private generators. If fuel wasn’t allowed in, these generators would also cease to operate.

A senior official from the International Committee of the Red Cross voiced concerns about the lack of electricity, emphasizing the risk it posed to hospitals. He also urged Hamas to release hostages, explaining, “As Gaza loses power, hospitals lose power, putting newborns in incubators and elderly patients on oxygen at risk. Kidney dialysis stops, and X-rays can’t be taken. Without electricity, hospitals risk turning into morgues.”

In Israel, opposition leader Benny Gantz, a former defense minister and political adversary of Netanyahu, joined a new wartime government, a sign of the increasing likelihood of an Israeli ground incursion into Gaza. Israel had mobilized 360,000 reservists, deployed additional troops near Gaza, and evacuated tens of thousands of residents from nearby areas.

The Israeli government faced mounting public pressure to dismantle Hamas after the militant group breached the border fence and committed atrocities that included abducting and killing Israelis, setting people on fire, sexual assault, and beheading soldiers.

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s allegations, although unverified, detailed the horrors perpetrated by the attackers. Meanwhile, rescue workers and eyewitnesses described harrowing scenes, including rooms soaked in blood and filled with massacred civilians, particularly the elderly.

Militants in Gaza were holding approximately 150 hostages from Israel, encompassing soldiers, men, women, children, and the elderly, while launching thousands of rockets into Israel over the past five days.

Israel’s airstrikes in Gaza, which have caused widespread devastation, have resulted in entire city blocks being reduced to rubble, concealing countless bodies underneath. A ground offensive in Gaza, a densely populated strip of land home to 2.3 million residents, would inevitably lead to a surge in casualties on both sides.

The United Nations reported a 30% increase in the number of people displaced by the airstrikes within 24 hours, reaching a total of 339,000 individuals, with two-thirds of them seeking refuge in UN schools. Others sought shelter in the diminishing number of safe zones.

Egypt rejected an American proposal to facilitate the exit of Palestinians fleeing Israel’s bombardment from Gaza. The Egyptian government believed that such an exodus would undermine the Palestinian cause. State-run media in Egypt alleged that Israel’s offensive was part of a scheme to depopulate the enclave.

Despite loaded convoys with food and fuel waiting on the Egyptian side of the Rafah crossing, they remained unable to enter Gaza. The sole crossing point between Egypt and Gaza had been closed due to nearby Israeli airstrikes.

Egypt was in discussions with Israel and the U.S. regarding the establishment of safe passages within Gaza and the delivery of humanitarian aid to the besieged Palestinian population. Talks were also underway with Israel and other foreign governments to evacuate foreign nationals via the Rafah crossing.

The risk of the conflict expanding became evident when the Iranian-backed Lebanese militant group, Hezbollah, launched anti-tank missiles at an Israeli military position, claiming to have killed and wounded troops. While the Israeli military acknowledged the attack, it did not comment on the potential casualties. In response, the Israeli army shelled the area in southern Lebanon from which the attack was initiated, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

Al-Shifa, the largest hospital in the Gaza Strip, had only enough fuel to sustain its power for three more days, as reported by Matthias Kannes, a Gaza-based official for Doctors Without Borders. The group noted that the two hospitals it managed in Gaza were running low on surgical equipment, antibiotics, fuel, and other vital supplies.

Ghassan Abu Sitta, a reconstructive surgeon at Al-Shifa, disclosed that 50 patients were awaiting surgery. He emphasized that the healthcare system was on the brink of collapse due to shortages, extending beyond diesel to encompass all essential supplies.

The Palestinian Red Crescent projected that generators in other hospitals would run out of fuel in five days, while residential buildings, lacking the storage capacity of hospitals, would lose power sooner.

In Israel, shock, grief, and calls for retribution against Hamas were on the rise. In the West Bank, Israeli settlers attacked a village south of Nablus, resulting in Palestinian fatalities. More than two dozen Palestinians had died in clashes in the West Bank since the weekend.

In a new approach, Israel was urging civilians to evacuate entire neighborhoods in Gaza, rather than just individual buildings, before leveling large sections in waves of airstrikes.

Furthermore, Israel’s stance had shifted in this conflict. While in previous engagements, the military emphasized the precision of its strikes in Gaza to mitigate civilian casualties, the current briefings underscored the extensive destruction taking place.

Nevertheless, Palestinians asserted that some were unable to escape or had nowhere to flee, with entire families perishing under the rubble. At other times, strikes occurred without warning.

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