LATE ON Tuesday night, Gaza’s Health Ministry reported harrowing numbers: 900 fatalities and 4,600 injuries since Israel initiated its retaliatory strikes last Saturday.
The statistics point to the fact that civilians are disproportionately affected; among the casualties were 260 children and 230 women.
These figures directly challenge Israel’s repeated claims that their strikes are solely targeting combatants.
The Israeli military has recently conducted tours for foreign correspondents, showcasing areas near Gaza where they claim civilians have been massacred.
Yet, intriguingly, Israeli journalists have been denied access to these very areas.
An Israeli military spokesperson further escalated tensions by alleging that they discovered 1,500 bodies of Palestinian guerrillas.
Such claims from the Israeli government and military have historically been met with scepticism, necessitating independently verified information.
Volker Türk, the United Nations human rights chief, voiced his deep shock and condemnation over the allegations of summary executions and mass killings by Palestinian armed groups.
Similarly, Human Rights Watch has accused Hamas fighters of causing mass casualties among Israeli civilians. They cite an all-night rave, dubbed Supernova, where BBC reports suggest that as many as 260 people were killed.
However, B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights organisation, counters with an unsettling perspective. They claim that a ‘criminal policy of revenge is underway’ in Gaza, where residents are hemmed in, with no escape routes or shelters to protect against aerial strikes.
B’Tselem asserts that this is not an aberration, but part of a longer-term policy targeting civilians and infrastructure in Gaza, compounding the misery for its residents.
On the diplomatic front, Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has urged both parties to consider an immediate ceasefire, warning that the ongoing conflict threatens regional ‘security and stability’.
Despite Cairo’s historical role as a mediator between Israel and Palestinian groups, an Egyptian official revealed that Israel has so far rebuffed Egypt’s efforts at de-escalation.
As the conflict continues to draw in wider geopolitical interests, with Lebanon, Iraq, and Yemen becoming increasingly embroiled and anti-American sentiments flaring, the world watches with bated breath.
Yet, the voices lost in the rising decibel of conflict are those of the civilians on the Palestinian side – families, children, and innocent bystanders caught in the crossfire of a seemingly unending cycle of revenge and retribution.
As tension escalates in the Gaza Strip, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh has indicated that negotiations for the release of Israelis and foreign nationals captured since Saturday will not begin until after the war concludes.
Ali Barakeh, a senior Hamas official, fortified this stance by declaring the group is well-prepared for a prolonged conflict, referencing their resilience during the 51-day war in 2014.
Barakeh also dismissed speculations that Iran and Hezbollah were involved in Saturday’s surprise attack but warned that these allies stand ready to intervene if Gaza faces annihilation.
Contrary to theories that the attack was designed to disrupt US diplomatic efforts in the Middle East, Barakeh clarified that the primary motive was Israel’s aggressive actions at al-Aqsa mosque and its punitive measures against Palestinians in Israeli prisons.
Despite a fighting force of 40,000, Hamas has so far only deployed 2,000 of its troops.
The group aims to use the captured Israelis to negotiate the release of all Arabs detained in Israeli jails and potentially some Palestinians imprisoned in the US, including the so-called Holy Land Five.
Meanwhile, Israel has intensified its siege on Gaza, sparking fears of a genocidal war aimed at expulsion.
These fears are compounded by recent language from Israeli leaders, such as Ghassan Alian, who described Gaza’s population as ‘human beasts’, and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, who pledged a response that will ‘change reality for generations’.
Israel Katz, the country’s electricity minister, announced that fuel supplies to Gaza will be cut, causing the power plant to shut down.
Meanwhile, in a speech cheerleading Israel’s revenge war on Gaza on Tuesday, Biden said that Hamas unleashed ‘pure, unadulterated evil’.
He repeated unsubstantiated claims that Palestinian guerrillas raped women.
He also trotted out the false Israeli propaganda trope that Hamas, a national liberation organisation with widespread support among the Palestinian people, uses Palestinian civilians as human shields and ‘whose stated purpose … is to kill Jews’.
He evoked the trauma of the Holocaust in defence of Israel’s actions – a bitter irony given that the scorched earth carpet bombing in Gaza is reminiscent of Nazi crimes tried at Nuremberg.
Biden said that the US was ‘surging additional military assistance’ to Israel to make sure that it ‘does not run out of these critical assets to defend its cities and its citizens’.
He made no mention of the welfare of Palestinians in Gaza, leaving them without even a rhetorical defence of their right to exist.
Biden made the patently false claim that unlike ‘terrorists’ who ‘purposefully target civilians … we uphold the laws of war’.
Targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure, often with US-sourced weapons, has been Israeli military doctrine in Gaza and Lebanon for decades.
Meanwhile, Biden made no reference to the Israeli government being run by adherents to a genocidal ideology who may use the current crisis to initiate a mass expulsion of Palestinians.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also criticised Israel’s cut-off of electricity and water to Gaza and warned that the deployment of a US aircraft carrier to the eastern Mediterranean would lead to additional massacres in the territory.
The US navy Ford carrier strike group arrived on Tuesday ‘within range to provide a host of air support or long-range strike options for Israel if requested’.
A US official told the agency that the carrier would bolster ‘US military presence to prevent the now six-day old war with Hamas from spilling over into a more dangerous regional conflict.’
The UN’s humanitarian coordinator in Palestine called for the immediate and unconditional release of captured civilians on Tuesday and said that ‘all relevant actors must allow humanitarian teams and goods to immediately and safely reach the hundreds of thousands of people in need’.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said that it was attempting to gain access to prisoners, including captives held by Palestinian guerrillas in Gaza, but to no avail.
‘We ask also for the civilians who have been captured to have an opportunity to communicate with their family, to tell them that they are safe and well,’ Fabrizio Carboni, the Middle East director for the ICRC, said on Tuesday.
But it appeared that some information about the captives were reaching their families.
The mother of Shani Louk – a dual German-Israeli national captured at the Supernova rave, and whose contorted and seemingly unconscious body was shown on video being driven in the back of a pickup truck in Gaza – said that her daughter was alive.