Israel pounds Gaza as Red Cross warns of ‘intolerable’ suffering

Agency Report

Israel intensified its attacks on Gaza on Sunday, calling for civilians to flee south where it vowed aid would increase.

This is as the Red Cross warned of “intolerable” suffering.

The United Nations warned that thousands more civilians could die in Gaza as Israel declared the war had entered a “second stage”, stepping up its ground operations inside the Hamas-run territory.

Israel unleashed a massive bombing campaign after Hamas gunmen stormed across the border on October 7, killing 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and seizing 230 hostages, according to Israeli officials.

Since then, relentless Israeli strikes on Gaza have killed more than 8,000 people, half of them children, the Hamas-controlled health ministry in the territory said.

Mirjana Spoljaric, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, voiced shock Saturday at the “intolerable level of human suffering”, urging all sides to de-escalate the conflict.

“This is a catastrophic failing that the world must not tolerate.”

Thousands of buildings have been flattened in the overcrowded territory of 2.4 million people, with more than half the population displaced as Israel imposed a near-total siege.

Israeli fighter jets dropped leaflets over Gaza City on Saturday, warning residents that the area was now a “battlefield”, that shelters in northern Gaza were not safe, and they should “evacuate immediately”.

The army delivered similar warnings earlier in its campaign, but many who fled south have returned home after failing to find refuge from Israeli bombing.

Israeli military spokesman Daniel Hagari restated on Sunday that civilians should go south “to a safer area where they can receive water, food and medicine”.

Hagari vowed that “the humanitarian efforts to Gaza, led by Egypt and the United States, will be expanding”.

Hamas authorities reported on Sunday that a “large number” of people were killed overnight in strikes on two refugee camps in northern Gaza.

Israel’s Home Front Command earlier warned residents in the southern cities of Ashdod and Ashkelon of incoming missile and rocket attacks.

The intense strikes against Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2007, provided cover for Israeli ground forces to step up operations, ahead of an expected full-blown invasion.

“Since early Friday evening, combined combat forces of armour, combat engineers and infantry have been operating on the ground in the northern Gaza Strip,” the Israeli army said late Saturday.

“This is the second stage of the war whose goals are clear: destroying the military and leadership capabilities of Hamas, and bringing the hostages back home,” Netanyahu told journalists.

He vowed to “eradicate” Hamas “for the sake of our existence”.

“The war in the (Gaza) Strip will be long and difficult and we are prepared for it.”

Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said earlier that Israel was attacking “above the ground and below the ground” in the new phase of the war, alluding to the sprawling network of tunnels Hamas has built under Gaza.

UN human rights chief Volker Turk has warned of “the possibly catastrophic consequences of large-scale ground operations in Gaza”, saying “thousands more civilians” could die.

And as Israel sends troops and tanks further into Gaza, analysts cautioned of possible fallout threatening the entire Middle East, even as Western fears grow that Iran-backed Hezbollah could open a new front on the Lebanese border.

A UN peacekeeper was injured Saturday by shelling in south Lebanon, the mission’s spokesman said, hours after reporting a hit at its headquarters as Israel-Lebanon border skirmishes intensify.


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