As Israeli forces assert control over the northern part of Gaza, including Gaza City, signs are emerging of a potential ground offensive into the southern regions. This escalation raises grave concerns about the humanitarian situation in an already beleaguered enclave.
The Threat of a Southern Offensive
Wednesday saw leaflets dropped in four communities east of Khan Younis, the largest city in southern Gaza, warning residents to seek shelter. However, finding refuge in the densely populated area is becoming increasingly difficult.
Aid organizations are sounding alarms that an Israeli move into southern Gaza could exacerbate the already dire humanitarian situation.
Critical Shortages and Communication Blackout
The situation within Gaza is rapidly deteriorating.
According to the World Food Programme (WFP), Gazans are facing an “immediate possibility of starvation” due to fuel shortages severely impacting food production and distribution. Philippe Lazzarini, head of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), highlighted a "total communication blackout" in the region, further complicating relief efforts.
Al-Shifa Hospital: A Center of Crisis
The Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza has become an epicenter of conflict and suffering. Israeli forces claim to have discovered a "tunnel shaft" in the hospital grounds, which the Hamas-run government media office vehemently denies, dismissing the allegations as "baseless lies." Inside the hospital, the situation is dire.
Mohammad Abu Salmiya, the director, detailed the desperate conditions in a phone interview, emphasizing the lack of basic necessities for the over 650 wounded, 36 premature babies, 45 kidney patients, and 5,000 displaced people sheltered there.
Trapped Amidst Intense Fighting
The situation is similarly dire at the Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital in Gaza City. Medics report being unable to reach the wounded due to intense fighting, as stated by the Palestine Red Crescent Society.
Broader Regional Impact
Beyond Gaza, the conflict's reverberations are felt. The Israeli military announced the death of Yehudit Weiss, an Israeli hostage, near the Al-Shifa hospital. Diplomatic tensions are high, with the US withholding judgment on potential violations of international humanitarian law by Israel, while the EU's top diplomat urges restraint. Meanwhile, Israeli strikes have been reported in Lebanese border villages.