Oct 29, 2023 - World

UN chief: "Situation in Gaza is growing more desperate by the hour"

An injured woman carries a baby in the aftermath of Israeli bombing in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip

An injured woman carries a baby in the aftermath of Israeli bombing in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. Photo: Mohammed Abed/AFP via Getty Images

UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned Sunday that the "situation in Gaza is growing more desperate by the hour," as Israel expands its air and ground offensive in the Strip in what Israeli officials have called the "second stage" of the war.

The big picture: More than 8,000 Palestinians, including at least 3,300 children, have been killed since the war began three weeks ago, according to the Ministry of Health in Hamas-run Gaza. Guterres, who has repeatedly called for a humanitarian ceasefire, said the number of civilians killed in the fighting is "totally unacceptable."

  • Communications were gradually restored to most of Gaza on Sunday after an internet and cellular blackout on Friday cut off the Strip's more than 2.2 million people from the rest of the world, per AP.

What's happening: In a sign of desperation, thousands of Palestinians on Saturday broke into several UN warehouses and distribution centers in central and southern Gaza, "taking wheat flour and other basic survivals," the UN Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA) said on Sunday.

  • "This is a worrying sign that civil order is starting to break down after three weeks of war and a tight siege on Gaza," Thomas White, director of UNRWA affairs in the Strip, said in a statement.
  • "People are scared, frustrated and desperate. Tensions and fear are made worse by the cuts in the phones and internet communication lines," White added. "They feel that they are on their own, cut off from their families inside Gaza and the rest of the world."

Catch up quick: The war began after Hamas on Oct. 7 killed at least 1,400 people, including many civilians, in Israel, according to Israeli officials. Hamas and other militant groups also kidnapped more than 220 people and took them to Gaza.

  • Since the terrorist attack, Gaza, which is about the size of Detroit, has been under Israel's heavy bombardment and a complete siege.
  • Israel's air raids intensified late Friday local time as Israel expanded its ground operations in Gaza, particularly in the northern part of the enclave. Israeli officials have stopped short of calling the offensive an all-out invasion of Gaza.
  • The IDF said on Sunday that it hit 450 targets in Gaza in the last 24 hours. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday that the goal of the second stage of Israel's offensive is to "destroy Hamas's governing and military capabilities and to bring the hostages home."
Data: OpenStreetMap, WorldPop; Map: Will Chase/Axios

Zoom out: Israel's siege of Gaza, humanitarian groups say, has worsened the already dire conditions in the enclave, which has been under a land, sea and air blockade by Israel, with Egypt's support, for more than 16 years.

  • Some assistance has been allowed to trickle into Gaza over the last week, but aid organizations say it covers only a fraction of the Strip's needs. It also doesn't include fuel, which humanitarian groups say is desperately needed to keep operations going at hospitals, which are relying on generators for electricity.
  • A senior official of COGAT, the Israeli Defence Ministry body that coordinates with the Palestinians, told reporters on Sunday that "in the coming week, the quantity of trucks [carrying aid] will increase significantly."
  • The official added Israel has marked a humanitarian zone that could accommodate "hundreds of thousands of people" in the southern Gaza city of Khan Yunis. More than 1.4 million people have been displaced in Gaza, according to the UN.
  • Israel had previously ordered about 1.1 million people in northern Gaza to evacuate to the southern part of the Strip. Many heeded the order, but others stayed in northern Gaza, saying there was nowhere to go in the tiny enclave, especially as the bombing has continued in the south. No one has been allowed to leave the enclave since the war began.

What to watch: White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told CNN on Sunday that President Biden will speak to Netanyahu later in the day and stress the need for the IDF to do everything possible to distinguish between Hamas and civilians during Israel's ground operation.

Go deeper: "Survival feels uncertain," Palestinians in Gaza say

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