Thousands of desperate Palestinians have stormed warehouses in Gaza to take flour and basic hygiene products, an agency of the United Nations has said.
And one aid worker fears civil order is on the verge of collapse as Israeli troops launch their ground offensive in response to the Hamas terror attacks of October 7.
Tanks and infantry pushed into Gaza over the weekend with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announcing a “second stage” in the war, describing it as his “life’s mission” to destroy Hamas.
Gaza’s Health Ministry now puts the death toll among Palestinians at more than 8,000 – mostly women and children, with the figure likely to risk sharply in the days to come.
The bombardment over the weekend – described by Gaza residents as the most intense of the war – knocked out most communications in the territory late Friday, largely cutting off the besieged enclave’s 2.3 million people from the world. Communications were restored to much of Gaza early Sunday.
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Thomas White, on behalf of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, known as UNRWA, said the warehouse break-ins were “a worrying sign that civil order is starting to break down after three weeks of war and a tight siege on Gaza. People are scared, frustrated and desperate”.
UNRWA provides basic services to hundreds of thousands of people in Gaza. Its schools across the territory have been transformed into packed shelters housing Palestinians displaced by the conflict. Israel has allowed only a small trickle of aid to enter from Egypt, some of which was stored in one of the warehouses that was broken into, UNRWA said.
Juliette Touma, a spokesperson for the agency, said the crowds broke into four facilities on Saturday. She said the warehouses did not contain any fuel, which has been in critically short supply since Israel cut off all shipments after the start of the war.
The Israeli military said yesterday it had struck over 450 militant targets over the past 24 hours, including Hamas command centres, observation posts and anti-tank missile launching positions. It said more ground forces were sent into Gaza overnight.
Residents living near Shifa Hospital, Gaza’s largest said Israeli airstrikes overnight hit near the hospital complex and blocked many roads leading to it. Israel accuses Hamas of having a secret command post beneath the hospital, without providing much evidence.
Tens of thousands of civilians are sheltering in Shifa, which is also packed with patients wounded in the strikes.
Speaking by phone, Mahmoud al-Sawah said: “Reaching the hospital has become increasingly difficult.
“It seems they want to cut off the area.”
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Another Gaza City resident, Abdallah Sayed, said the Israeli bombing over the past two days was “the most violent and intense” since the war started.
The army recently released computer-generated images showing what it said were Hamas installations in and around Shifa Hospital, as well as interrogations of captured Hamas fighters who might have been speaking under duress.
Israel has made similar claims before, but has not substantiated them.
Little is known about Hamas’ tunnels and other infrastructure, and the claims could not be independently verified. Hamas’ government denied the allegations and said they were aimed at justifying future strikes on the facility.
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The Palestinian Red Crescent rescue service said another Gaza City hospital received two calls from Israeli authorities on Sunday ordering it to evacuate. It said airstrikes have hit as close as 50 meters (yards) from the Al-Quds Hospital, where 12,000 people are sheltering.
Israel had ordered the hospital to evacuate more than a week ago, but it and other medical facilities have refused, saying it would mean death for patients on ventilators.
Hospitals are struggling to keep emergency generators running to operate incubators and other life-saving equipment, and aid workers trying to keep water pumps and bakeries running to meet essential needs.
There was no immediate Israeli comment on the latest evacuation order or the strikes near Shifa.
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