When Israeli bombs started raining down on Gaza, Najla Shawa, a Palestinian humanitarian worker, made a play to distract her terrified girls, aged six and four.
“We huddled in the hallway and I hugged them and at the same time we counted the loud explosions,” he said from his home with the edge of the edge squeezed between Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea. “In the first phase of the bombing they were screaming and screaming, and the eldest started complaining of chest pains. He couldn’t sit or eat because of the fear and stress in his body.”
Trapped in narrow coastal territory, its borders sealed, Gaza’s civilian population – some 2m people, most of them refugees from previous wars – no one can escape. Israel struck the enclave with jet jets, warships and tanks, while Hamas, the Palestinian militant group, fired thousands of useless rockets at the Jewish state, even if the mostly involved in Israeli air protection system.
On Sunday in Gaza 192 people were killed, including 92 women and children, according to Palestinian health officials. The Israeli military said there were at least 75 Hamas militants but provided no evidence. So far, 10 people have been killed inside Israel, including two children and a soldier.
The death toll in Gaza is expected to rise, with many still trapped in rubble. On Sunday morning alone Israeli air strikes killed 42 people and collapsed several buildings. Rescuers, using their hands and instructions up-to-date, struggled to pull the wounded out of the bent metal and heavy concrete, according to a witness.
The lack of ambulances and air strikes on nearby roads meant that some survivors had to bring their young children to get medical help. A resident of an apartment block, who asked not to be named, said they had not received warnings to evacuate before it was hit.
Israel insists it targets militant positions and accuses Hamas of hiding behind Palestinian civilians. But its military is sending a much higher tempo and intensity of air strikes against wider targets than in previous campaigns, under a new military strategy called the “doctrine of victory. “. Lt Col Jonathan Conricus of the Israel Defense Forces said the one -hour operation on Thursday night involved 160 planes.
The IDF said residential buildings that collapsed on Sunday collapsed after wind strikes that engulfed a network of Hamas tunnels nearby, damaging their foundations.
Gaza is one of the most densely populated areas in the world and while Hamas fighters may be retreating through tunnels – the group dug under the capital towns, cities and refugee camps in Gaza to help the air attacks and facilitate communication – civilians have few places to hide.
A Palestinian man recounted how the buildings where his family of 30 people lived this year went to one side as Israeli shells fell nearby. They fled Friday morning after hitting a neighboring house.
“I learned later from neighbors that an entire family, father, mother and four children were buried under the rubble,” he said.
More than 10,000 people have taken refuge in schools run by UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees. Among them, Ahmed Arafat, a farmer from Beit Hanoun in north-eastern Gaza, said he fled with his wife, mother and five children on Friday to escape shooting from tanks in Israel. During the seven -week war in 2014 – the last major conflict between Israel and Hamas – his family spent a month in a similar shelter. “I don’t know when it will end at this time,” he added. “But I’m afraid it’s going to take long.”
The Gaza Strip – often likened to an open prison by human rights groups – has been blocked by Israel and Egypt since 2007, when Hamas ousted Fatah, the Palestinian political faction led by Mahmoud Abbas. president. Due to severe restrictions on trade and access to the outside world, the weary and impoverished population was already seeing their infrastructure crumbling and living standards before the latest fight began.
“Every couple of years there has been a conflict over the size of Gaza that has left it even more desperate and destitute than ever before due to ongoing obstruction,” Tamara al-Rifai told UNRWA. “Now that weak health infrastructures also have to struggle with Covid-19.”
Electricity and fresh water supplies, which have been disrupted at normal hours, are in crisis because fuel is no longer available. The only power plant in Gaza to run out of fuel on Monday unless a ceasefire negotiated to allow restitution, an Israeli official said.
Ashraf al-Qudra, of Gaza’s health ministry, said he expects the fuel to run the hospital’s generators to run out in under a week, increasing pressure on facilities already facing flooding. wounded civilians. More than 1,200 people were injured.
“We treated second and third degree burns, people with broken legs and others suffering from suffocation from toxic fumes,” he added. “Injuries range from dangerous to life-threatening and require surgical interventions that we can’t do in Gaza. We need to cross Israel to open up because it provides a line of essential medicines, supplies. hospital, food and fuel for generators. “
Hamas, an Islamist movement, has ruled Gaza with an iron fist but there is still no evidence that Palestinians blame the group for the latest suffering. Abbas, the Palestinian leader, canceled the planned election last month in a move viewed by many motivated by his fear that Hamas would win.
Shawa said his family watched the black smoke explode in the sky. Her husband left their home near the sea in western Gaza only once since the bombing began to get bread. Describing the situation in the territory after years of obstruction, he said: “People feel they have not lost and are fed up with a lot of injustice.”