Israel conducted additional air strikes on Gaza’s largest refugee camp, Jabalia, on Wednesday. The bombings resulted in extensive damage to buildings and, as reported by the Hamas-run health ministry, caused the death of numerous people.
News reporters on the scene observed extensive damage, witnessing people urgently sifting through the debris to rescue injured individuals.
Israeli authorities stated that their fighter jets conducted the strike, targeting what they described as a “Hamas command and control complex” and claiming to have eliminated an unspecified number of militants.
Rescuers said “whole families” had died, but casualty details could not be immediately confirmed.
Israel has targeted over 11,000 sites in Gaza since October 7, which coincided with an attack by Hamas militants that resulted in the deaths of approximately 1,400 people, including many civilians.
While some nations supported Israel’s right to respond to Hamas, there has been increasing criticism of Israeli tactics as the civilian death toll has risen.
According to Gaza’s health ministry, the conflict has claimed the lives of 8,796 Gazans, with a significant number being women and children, and it has led to the destruction of entire neighborhoods in Gaza.
Israeli forces had previously targeted the Jabalia camp on Tuesday, resulting in the reported deaths of at least 47 people, as per AFP’s tally.
The United Nations expressed strong disapproval of Israel’s recent bombings, and condemnation echoed from various nations, including Bolivia, which severed diplomatic ties in protest.
The UN’s highest human rights body, citing the “high number of civilian casualties” and the extensive destruction, voiced deep concerns, suggesting that these actions might constitute disproportionate attacks that could potentially be categorized as war crimes.
Jordan recalled its ambassador to Israel as a condemnation of the ongoing conflict in Gaza, which has resulted in civilian casualties. Israel, on the other hand, has denied the accusations, stating that Hamas uses civilian areas to conceal its command posts and arsenals, which are used to target Israeli civilians.
The Israel Defense Forces reported that their strike in Jabalia targeted a high-ranking Hamas commander and an underground tunnel complex.
Lieutenant Colonel Richard Hecht emphasized that their conflict is not with the people of Gaza, but rather with Hamas, and they believe that the Palestinian people deserve peace and safety.
Hamas claimed that seven of the 240 individuals it is holding, including three foreign passport holders, perished in Tuesday’s bombing. However, verifying this claim has proven to be a challenge.
Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of the group, accused Israel of carrying out “barbaric massacres against unarmed civilians” and suggested that these actions were a response to their own setbacks.
Earlier on Wednesday, a significant development occurred as hundreds of foreign passport holders, wounded individuals, and sick Palestinians were permitted to escape the ongoing conflict by crossing into Egypt. This marked the first such evacuations since the war began.
Families, weighed down by their few remaining possessions, hurriedly made their way across the heavily fortified border as the gates at Rafah were finally opened after weeks of anticipation and hope.
Ambulances swiftly transported the wounded to the safety of Egyptian field hospitals. Among the evacuees was a young boy with extensive bandages around his stomach. Egypt reported that a total of 335 foreigners or dual nationals, along with 76 seriously wounded and ill individuals, successfully crossed the border.
Alaa al-Shubaki, a Jordanian citizen, expressed relief, saying, “We have been heading to the crossing for 25 days. Finally, I found my name in the evacuees list.”
The evacuees included citizens from various countries, such as 31 Austrians, 20 Australians, five French nationals, four Italians, and some German and US citizens, according to their respective governments.
Umm Saleh Hussein, another Jordanian, emphasized that water and electricity shortages were among the lesser hardships faced in Gaza. She stated, “There were more significant problems, such as the ongoing bombardment. We lived in fear, and many families tragically lost their loved ones.”
For those who remain in Gaza, the agonizing wait for safety continues.
Amen al-Aqluk, who left Gaza City as per Israeli directives, expressed the prevailing despair, stating, “There is no hope in the Gaza Strip. It is no longer safe here. We face the specter of death every day, around the clock.”
Despite some relief with about 50 trucks carrying medical and food aid entering Gaza on Wednesday, the overall situation remains dire. Food, fuel, and essential medicines are in critically short supply, affecting the 2.4 million residents, as reported by aid organizations.
Doctors Without Borders (MSF) noted that over 20,000 wounded individuals are still trapped in the Gaza Strip. MSF called for the expedited evacuation of those who wish to leave and stressed their right to return.
With growing concerns of a potential regional conflict, U.S. President Joe Biden called for “urgent mechanisms” to de-escalate tensions and announced that Secretary of State Antony Blinken would commence another Middle East tour starting on Friday.
Turkey and Iran also urged a regional conference to prevent further escalation, especially as Israel faces daily aerial attacks from Hamas and other Iran-backed groups across the Middle East, including Yemen’s Houthi rebels.
The situation in the region remains highly volatile, prompting calls for diplomatic efforts to ensure stability.