Oct 13, 2023 - World

Gaza "fast becoming hell hole" on "brink of collapse" amid Israel strikes: UN

Palestinians look for survivors in the rubble of a destroyed building hit during an Israeli air strike as an injured woman is helped in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on October 13,

A Palestinian man and woman react after an Israeli airstrike in southern Gaza on Oct. 13. Photo: Said Khatib

The speed of the humanitarian crisis unfolding in densely-populated Gaza is "bone-chilling" and the enclave is "fast becoming a hell hole," the UN Palestinian agency said on Friday.

The big picture: The dire warning underscores the scale of the immense suffering of Palestinians in Gaza — home to more than 2 million people — as the Israeli military continues its heavy bombardment of the enclave in response to last Saturday's Hamas attack on Israel.

  • It also comes after Israel ordered 1.1 million Palestinians to evacuate the northern part of the Strip to the south — an evacuation the UN has called "impossible" and a "death sentence" for many.
  • Many were making their way to the south on Friday, but others have said they are staying put because there is nowhere to go in the small enclave, which is about the size of Detroit.
  • "We do not have the means to evacuate the sick and the wounded in our hospitals, or the elderly and the disabled," the Palestinian Red Crescent Society said on Friday. "There are no safe areas in the whole of the Gaza Strip."
  • More than 1,900 Palestinians have been killed since the war began. At least 1,300 Israelis were killed in the Hamas attack.
Data: OpenStreetMap, WorldPop; Map: Will Chase/Axios

Hundreds of thousands had already been displaced prior to Israel's Thursday night order.

  • Palestinian Journalist Motaz Azaiza said on Instagram on Friday that the mass displacement is similar to 1948, when hundreds of thousands were forcibly displaced in the events that led to Israel's founding. "It's another Nakba [or catastrophe] by the Israeli occupation," he said.

State of play: The enclave was plunged into the darkness earlier this week after Gaza's sole power plant shut down due to Israel's "complete siege."

  • Israel cut electricity and blocked food, fuel and other supplies from getting into Gaza, which had already been under a strict Israeli blockade, supported by Egypt, for 16 years. The enclave's health system has already started to collapse, Palestinian health officials said earlier this week.
  • Israeli Energy Minister Israel Katz said on Thursday that not "a single electricity switch will be flipped on, not a single faucet will be turned on, and not a single fuel truck will enter until the Israeli hostages are returned home."
  • Hamas is believed to be holding about 150 hostages inside Gaza. Israeli ground forces Thursday into Friday conducted limited incursions into the Strip to "clear the area" of Hamas militants and search for missing people, an IDF spokesperson said on Friday.
  • The evacuation order and the limited incursions could signal Israel is preparing for a major ground invasion in the coming days.

What they're saying: President Biden in some of his first comments about the situation unfolding in Gaza said on Friday that the Biden administration is working "urgently to address the humanitarian crisis."

  • UN aid chief Martin Griffiths said on social media that "the noose around the civilian population in Gaza is tightening."
  • UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini echoed Griffiths, saying in a statement that Gaza "is fast becoming a hell hole and is on the brink of collapse."
  • "There is no exception, all parties must uphold the laws of war," he added. "I urge all parties and those with influence over them to put an end to this tragedy and provide immediate and unconditional humanitarian access and protection to the civilian, among them far too many women and children."

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