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Humanitarian crisis deepens as Hamas-hit Israel continues to bomb Gaza every 30 seconds

Israeli artillery continued their relentless assault on concealed targets within Gaza on Thursday, firing munitions every 30 seconds. The death toll on both sides climbed above 3,000, intensifying the humanitarian crisis in the region.

Since the initiation of strikes against Hamas targets on Saturday, approximately 6,000 munitions, carrying a total of 4,000 tonnes of explosives, have been bombarded in Gaza. Israeli troops strategically positioned 150 mm artillery guns mere meters apart in fields near the border towns of Netivot and Sderot, which were overrun by Hamas during a weekend offensive.

Netivot and Sderot, located on the Gaza border, have been frequent targets of rocket attacks from the densely populated enclave. To counter Palestinian fighters’ infiltration attempts, roadblocks have been set up in southern Israel, while Apache helicopter gunships patrol the skies.

In another development, Syrian state media reported Israeli missile strikes on major international airports in Damascus and Aleppo. These strikes damaged runways, forcing flights to be diverted to Latakia in north-west Syria. Although Israel has not officially commented on the attack, it has a history of targeting sites in Syria associated with Iran.

The Damascus and Aleppo airports serve civilian and military purposes, with the latter reportedly facilitating the transit of Iranian arms to Hezbollah, a powerful militant group in Syria and Lebanon.

The United Kingdom announced the deployment of surveillance aircraft and two Royal Navy ships to the eastern Mediterranean to support Israel in tracking regional threats, including weapons transfers to terrorist groups. The deployment, including surveillance assets, helicopters, P8 aircraft, and marines, aims to prevent further escalation and support humanitarian efforts.

During his Middle East visit, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken reassured Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Washington’s support, emphasizing the prevention of the conflict with Palestinian Hamas militants from spreading. Blinken affirmed the US commitment to Israel, stating, “We’re here, we’re not going anywhere.”

Amid Israel’s complete blockade of Gaza, independent United Nations experts condemned the relentless strikes, labeling them as “collective punishment.” The Gaza Strip faced a complete blockade, with essential resources and humanitarian aid denied entry until hostages taken by Hamas during a surprise weekend attack on Israel were released, as declared by Israeli Energy Minister Israel Katz.

The UN chief, Antonio Guterres, called for unimpeded humanitarian access to Gaza as the death toll surpassed 1,300. President Joe Biden’s remarks about the conflict were retracted by the White House, clarifying that his statements were based on unverified information.

In an effort to unite against Hamas, Israeli leaders formed a unity government, setting aside political differences to focus on combating the militant group. Gaza, home to 2.3 million people, faced a dire situation as Israel imposed a “total siege,” halting the flow of essential goods and causing widespread power outages.

With Palestinian rescue workers stretched thin, desperate locals scoured the wreckage for bodies in the crowded Gaza Strip. One man, trapped under the debris of a collapsed house, cried for help as he and others used flashlights to search for survivors in a building struck by missiles.

The United Nations reported that over 338,000 people have been compelled to leave their homes in Gaza due to continuous heavy bombardments by Israel. The UN humanitarian agency OCHA stated that mass displacement across Gaza persisted, with the number of displaced people rising by 75,000 within 24 hours, reaching a total of 338,934. Of these displaced individuals, around 220,000 sought refuge in UNRWA-run schools, while nearly 15,000 found shelter in Palestinian Authority-operated schools. Additionally, over 100,000 people sought refuge with relatives, neighbors, churches, and other facilities in Gaza City. Before Saturday’s attack, approximately 3,000 people were already displaced within the enclave.

The bombing campaign has resulted in the destruction or inhabitable status of at least 2,540 housing units in Gaza, according to data from the Gaza Ministry of Public Works and Housing. Another 22,850 housing units suffered moderate to minor damage. The UN agency expressed deep concern over the significant damage to civilian infrastructure, including sewage facilities serving over a million people, leading to the accumulation of solid waste in the streets, posing a severe health risk.

Furthermore, the humanitarian crisis escalated as the sole power plant in Gaza shut down due to fuel depletion. Medical supplies, including crucial items like oxygen, dwindled at the overwhelmed Al-Shifa hospital, exacerbating the dire situation.

Amid the crisis, the European Union urged the establishment of a “humanitarian corridor” to facilitate the safe evacuation of civilians from the enclave, which is experiencing its fifth war in 15 years. Arab League foreign ministers, meeting in Cairo, called for immediate aid delivery to Gaza.

In the midst of ongoing clashes and solidarity protests in the occupied West Bank, where 27 Palestinians lost their lives since Saturday, Gaza resident Mazen Mohammad described the nightmarish experience of his family, who huddled together in fear as explosions rocked their surroundings. The situation remains critical, with the people of Gaza facing immense challenges and a deteriorating humanitarian landscape.

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