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HomeworldFirst evacuees leave Gaza as Israel strikes refugee camp again

First evacuees leave Gaza as Israel strikes refugee camp again

GAZA: Injured residents and foreigners escaped Gaza to Egypt on Wednesday (Nov 1), the first evacuations from the war-torn Palestinian territory pounded by Israeli warplanes in retaliation for an unprecedented Hamas attack.

The evacuees were driven in ambulances through the Rafah border crossing. Under the deal reached between Egypt, Israel and Hamas, a number of foreigners and critically wounded people will be allowed to leave the besieged territory.

AFP reporters at Gaza’s southern border saw ambulances whisking away the wounded to Egyptian field hospitals, including one young boy with heavy bandaging around his stomach.

Whole families, struggling to carry their worldly possessions, rushed through the heavily fortified crossing towards Egypt, which was expected to admit at least 400 foreign passport holders and 90 of the most seriously wounded and sick.

The brief glimmer of hope sparked by the temporary opening of the Rafah border crossing was quickly snuffed out as a fresh strike pulverised buildings in Gaza’s biggest refugee camp for a second consecutive day, killing dozens according to the Palestinian health ministry.

The Jabalia camp suffered a second strike in as many days Wednesday, with AFPTV images showing major damage and rescuers clawing through rubble to extract blood-stained casualties.

Dozens were killed and wounded, according to the Hamas-run health ministry, which came a day after Israeli jets hit the camp, killing at least 47 people, according to an AFP count.

“This is just the latest atrocity to befall the people of Gaza where the fighting has entered an even more terrifying phase, with increasingly dreadful humanitarian consequences,” said Martin Griffiths, UN humanitarian chief.

The evacuation followed another day of bloodshed in Gaza in which an Israeli air strike on Tuesday killed about 50 people in a refugee camp, according to Palestinian health officials. 

Israel said the attack killed a senior Hamas commander and many other combatants.

Palestinian residents said Israeli forces bombed and shelled Gaza by land, sea and air throughout the night, inflicting scores more casualties among the civilian population.

Israel sent its forces into Hamas-controlled Gaza following weeks of air and artillery bombardments in retaliation for a deadly attack by the Islamist group on southern Israel on Oct 7.

Israel has vowed to wipe out Hamas. But the civilian death toll in Gaza and the desperate humanitarian conditions have caused great concern across the world as food, fuel, drinking water and medicine run short and hospitals struggle to treat casualties.

About 200 people were waiting at the Palestinian side of the border on Wednesday morning, the source said.

A second source said not all were expected to make it out on Wednesday. There was no timeline for how long the crossing will remain open for evacuation, they added.

A Western official said a list of people with foreign passports who can leave Gaza had been agreed between Israel and Egypt and relevant embassies have been informed. An Israeli official who requested anonymity confirmed that Israel was coordinating the exits with Egypt.

Egypt has prepared a field hospital in Sheikh Zuwayed in the Sinai, medical sources said. Ambulances could be seen waiting at the Rafah crossing.

The first source said this deal, however, was not linked to other issues, such as the release of about 240 hostages held by Hamas or a “humanitarian pause” in the fighting which many countries have called for but which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected.

Indonesia said it was trying to get out 10 nationals but three of them, volunteers at an Indonesia-run hospital, have decided to stay. The Philippines said that two Filipino doctors with Doctors Without Borders NGO were among those leaving Gaza.

Jordan and Italy also said they hoped to bring their citizens out on Wednesday.

The Hamas attack on southern Israel on Oct 7 killed about 300 soldiers and some 1,100 civilians, Israeli figures say.

The Gaza health ministry said on Wednesday that at least 8,796 Palestinians, including 3,648 children, have been killed in Israeli strikes on Gaza since Oct 7.

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REFUGEE CAMP HIT

The Israeli military said Tuesday’s strikes on Jabalia, Gaza’s largest refugee camp, had killed Ibrahim Biari, a Hamas commander it said was pivotal in organising the Oct 7 assault, as well as dozens of Hamas militants.

Palestinian health officials said at least 50 Palestinians were killed and 150 wounded, while a Hamas statement said there were 400 dead and injured in Jabalia, which houses families of refugees from wars with Israel dating back to 1948.

United Nations human rights officials said the operation could be a war crime.

“Given the high number of civilian casualties & the scale of destruction following Israeli air strikes on Jabalia refugee camp, we have serious concerns that these are disproportionate attacks that could amount to war crimes,” the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights wrote on social media site X.

Hamas’ armed wing al-Qassam Brigades said seven civilian hostages were killed in the Jabalia attack, including three foreign passport holders. There was no comment from Israel on the claim.

Eleven Israeli soldiers were also killed in fighting on Tuesday, the Israeli military said, its biggest one-day loss since the initial assault.

Netanyahu mourned mounting military losses but said the war would be long but victorious.

“We are in a tough war. It will be a long war,” he said in a statement. “I promise to all citizens of Israel: We will get the job done. We will press ahead until victory.”

After a lull of several hours in rocket fire, the Israeli military sounded sirens in southern communities as well as the port cities of Ashkelon and Ashdod.

White House national security spokesperson John Kirby said on Wednesday that Washington did not believe Hamas could be involved in governing Gaza when the war is over.

Despite the rising civilian death toll in Gaza, Kirby also said the US did not believe now was the time for a general ceasefire, but humanitarian pauses in hostilities were necessary.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to Israel and Jordan on Friday, the State Department said. He will meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for an update on Israel’s military objectives, it said.

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POWER OUTAGE

The din of Israeli war planes, tanks and naval boats pounding Gaza city and the north continued all through the night. Israeli ground forces clashed with fighters from Hamas and other groups in the north, southern and eastern areas of Gaza – part of a series of incursions apparently aimed at incremental gains rather than a full-scale invasion.

Communications and internet services were completely cut off in Gaza again on Wednesday, telecommunications provider Paltel said.

“They don’t want the world to see their crimes against civilians,” said Gaza resident Ahmed Muhey.

Dozens of Palestinians gathered outside the Nasser Hospital morgue waiting to get the bodies of their relatives for burial.

Inside, bodies lay on the ground being prepared to be shrouded in white after they were cleaned of dust and blood.

Health officials said they had received 15 bodies of Palestinians killed in Israeli strikes overnight in Khan Younis, including four children.

“Everyday there are dead and every day there are children or women among them or both,” said one doctor.

Two of Gaza’s main hospitals – Al Shifa Medical and the Indonesian Hospital – faced a power outage as their generators rapidly run out of fuel.

Palestinian Health Minister Mai al-Kaila said the Turkish-Palestinian Friendship hospital, Gaza’s only cancer treatment facility, was now out of service due to the lack of fuel.

The current violence – the worst in many years of sporadic warfare – erupted at a time when Palestinian hopes for an independent state and an end to Israel’s occupation are as far away as ever. Peace talks are now just a distant memory and Netanyahu’s right-wing government has expanded Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Israel sees Hamas, which has vowed to destroy the Jewish state, as an existential threat.

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