As Israeli forces pressed their offensive against Hamas militants, the first group of civilian evacuees from Gaza entered Egypt on Wednesday thanks to a deal that Qatar mediated.
A day after Palestinian health officials reported that an Israeli airstrike there killed over 50 people and injured 150 more, with Israel claiming it also killed a Hamas commander, another explosion rocked Jabalia, the largest refugee camp in Gaza, on Wednesday.
Though footage showed smoke pouring over the camp and people sorting through rubble heaps and removing the injured, there was no immediate information on potential casualties.
“It is a massacre,” declared one witness who had been there at the scene of what they believed to be an Israeli airstrike in the Fallujah neighborhood of the sizable camp in the north of Gaza.
Palestinians also claimed that a bomb exploded on Wednesday in Gaza City, setting fire to an eye hospital. However, there were no immediate information regarding the number of victims or the amount of the damage.
The individuals being transported to Egypt were among those who had been stranded in Gaza since the war’s commencement over three weeks prior. They were driven across the border at Rafah, where, according to a source there, they were passing through security procedures on the Egyptian side.
These were the first recipients of an agreement mediated by Egypt, Israel, and Hamas; according to three Egyptian sources and a Palestinian official, they included at least 320 foreign passport holders and several critically injured Gazans.
About 7,500 foreign passport holders would be evacuated from Gaza over the course of about two weeks, according to a diplomatic source briefed on Egyptian plans. Al Arish airport would also be made accessible for passengers to take flights out. According to diplomats, the first group of foreign nationals to be evacuated were supposed to drive to Cairo and take a plane out of there.
The United Nations Middle East peace envoy, Tor Wennesland, praised Rafah’s openness to the first evacuees on the social media platform X, calling it “an important step in the right direction, which we need to build on.”
Palestinian residents claimed that despite the progress made in the humanitarian arena, Israeli warplanes, naval vessels, and artillery shelled Gaza all night, killing a great number of civilians.
Hospitals found it difficult to operate during fuel shortages that Israel has forbade humanitarian convoys from entering the destroyed enclave, claiming that the fuel would be diverted to Hamas fighters.
Following weeks of airstrikes and artillery attacks, Israel moved ground forces into Hamas-ruled Gaza to avenge the Islamist group’s October 7 cross-border attack on southern Israel.
Israel is determined to destroy Hamas. However, the number of civilian deaths in the crowded Gaza Strip and the dire humanitarian situation have alarmed people worldwide as supplies of food, gasoline, clean water, and medication run low.
One of the few Arab nations to have restored relations with Israel, Jordan announced on Wednesday that it would remove its ambassador from Tel Aviv until Israel ceased its attack on Gaza.
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Nineteen of the 81 patients being transported to Egypt are gravely injured, according to director of the Nasser Hospital in the Gaza Strip Nahed Abu Taeema,
“Those require advanced surgeries that can’t be done here because of the lack of capabilities, especially women and children,” Abu Taeema added.
According to a Western diplomat, Israel and Egypt have agreed on a list of foreign passport holders who are allowed to evacuate Gaza. It was verified by an Israeli official that Israel and Egypt were coordinating the evacuation.
According to medical authorities, Egypt has set up a field hospital near Sheikh Zuwayed. At Rafah, ambulances were on standby.
According to the first source, the agreement had nothing to do with other matters, such the release of over 240 captives that Hamas had been holding since the attack on October 7 or the “humanitarian pause” in the war that several nations had demanded but that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had rejected.
About 300 soldiers and 1,100 civilians were killed in Hamas’s surprise ground invasion into southern Israel on October 7, which started the hostilities, according to Israel.
Since then, Israeli strikes have killed at least 8,796 Palestinians in the small coastal enclave, including 3,648 children, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.
In addition to hundreds of Hamas members, the Israeli military claimed that Ibrahim Biari, a Hamas commander who was crucial in planning the Oct. 7 attack, had been killed in Tuesday’s raid on the Jabalia refugee camp.
Josep Borrell, the chief of EU foreign policy, expressed his shock at the large number of deaths in Jabalia and pleaded with all parties to uphold the “laws of war and humanity…”
According to the Israeli military, Hamas ensnares its fighters in densely populated residential areas, using them as cover for weapons sites and command centers.
The Israeli military announced after notifying next of kin that fifteen troops had died in Tuesday’s fighting in Gaza, marking the greatest single-day loss since the onslaught began.
“This is a hard war,” Netanyahu declared. “I swear to all Israeli citizens: we will complete the task at hand. We’re going to keep going till we win.”
Warning sirens sounded in towns in southern Israel and in the Mediterranean port cities of Ashkelon and Ashdod as the cross-border rocket fire from Hamas persisted.
Israeli ground forces and fighters from Hamas and other groups engaged in combat overnight in the northern, southern, and eastern regions of Gaza. These incursions appear to be part of a plan to make gradual advances rather than launch a full-scale invasion.
Paltel, a telecommunications company, reported that internet and communication services were once more suspended in Gaza on Wednesday.
The bloodshed, the deadliest in years of intermittent fighting, broke out at a moment when Palestinian hopes for an independent state and an end to Israel’s rule seem unlikely to materialize.
The right-wing administration of Netanyahu has increased Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, and peace negotiations are now a thing of the past. With its pledge to topple the Jewish state, Hamas poses an existential threat to Israel.