Israeli forces pummelled central Gaza by land, sea and air on Wednesday and a telecommunications outage in much of the enclave hit efforts to reach Palestinian casualties, after Israel’s military chief said the war on Hamas would grind on for months.
Reflecting Israeli resolve to wipe out Hamas despite growing global calls for a cease-fire, Israel’s Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi said the 11-week-old war would last “many months” and there were no “magic solutions” or “shortcuts.”
In central Gaza’s Al-Maghazi district, five Palestinians were killed in one air strike, medics said, while to the north in Gaza City health officials said the bodies of seven Palestinians killed overnight arrived at Al Shifa Hospital.
Residents also reported heavy fighting east and north of Al-Bureij district and in the nearby village of Juhr Ad-Deek, where they said Israeli tanks are stationed.
Israel’s military on Wednesday reported three more soldiers killed in action in Gaza, bringing total military losses in the enclave since ground operations began on Oct. 20 to 166. Nearly 21,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli strikes, according to Gaza’s health ministry.
Israeli intensified its raids this week, particularly in a central area just south of the waterway that bisects the Gaza Strip. The Israeli army told civilians to leave the area, though many said there was no safe place left to go.
The World Health Organization released footage taken mostly on Monday and Tuesday at several Gaza hospitals, with WHO emergency medical team coordinator Sean Casey saying Gaza’s health capacity was 20 percent of what it was 80 days ago.
’IT’S A BLOODBATH’
“There’s blood everywhere in these hospitals at the moment,” said Casey, adding that nowhere in Gaza was safe.
“We’re seeing almost only trauma cases come through the door and at a scale that’s quite difficult to believe, it’s a bloodbath as we said before, it’s carnage.”
The Israeli military said it was continuing to strike what it called terror targets in Gaza, at one point using its navy to hit suspects deemed to pose a threat to ground troops.
In the Shejaia district of Gaza City an Israeli attack on militant fighters on foot caused secondary explosions, indicating the area was rigged with explosives to attack soldiers, a military statement said.
The Palestinian Red Crescent reported a complete loss of communication with its teams working in the Gaza Strip due to the disruption of telecommunications and Internet services.
It said in a statement that the VHF radio communication network, the sole means of communication during the blackout, sustained damage from artillery shelling that hit part of its headquarters in Khan Younis, posing a challenge for emergency medical teams trying to reach the wounded and injured.
“We are gravely concerned about the continued bombardment of Middle Gaza by Israeli forces, which has claimed more than 100 Palestinian lives since Christmas Eve,” UN Human Rights Office spokesperson Seif Magango said on Tuesday.
Since Hamas killed 1,200 people and captured 240 hostages on Oct. 7 in the deadliest day in Israeli history, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has responded with an assault that has laid much of Hamas-ruled Gaza to waste.
As well as the reported 21,000 Palestinian dead, thousands more are feared to be buried under rubble. Nearly all the enclave’s 2.3 million people have been driven from their homes, many several times.
Gaza authorities buried 80 unidentified Palestinians on Tuesday whose bodies were handed over by Israel through the Kerem Shalom border crossing, the health ministry said.
According to the Islamic Waqf, or religious affairs ministry, the bodies were collected from the northern part of the Gaza Strip.
Israel says it is doing what it can to protect civilians, and blames Hamas for putting them in harm’s way by operating among them, which Hamas denies. But even Israel’s closest ally the United States has said it should do more to reduce civilian deaths from what President Joe Biden has called “indiscriminate bombing.”
Six people were killed in the West Bank city of Tulkarm in an Israeli raid, the Palestinian health ministry said.
US-ISRAELI TALKS ON WAR ‘DAY AFTER’
In Washington, White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Israel’s Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer discussed planning for what happens when the war ends, including governance and security in Gaza.
The two also discussed efforts to bring home the remaining hostages and a transition to a different phase of the war to focus on Hamas leaders when they met on Tuesday, a US official said.
The United States has pressed Israel in recent weeks to scale down its war to a more targeted operation. But Washington is still seen in the region as a supporter of Israel and US forces have been attacked by Iran-backed militants in the Middle East.
In an interview with Egyptian TV, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Israel intended to stay in Gaza after the war “but the whole world does not agree with it.”
He said the US could “order” Israel to agree that Gaza become part of a future Palestinian state.
There are growing signs the conflict is spreading.
Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi militia claimed responsibility for a missile attack on Tuesday on a container ship in the Red Sea and for an attempt to attack Israel with drones. The attacks are a response to Israel’s assault on Gaza, the militia says.
An Israeli airstrike killed a senior leader of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards in Syria on Monday.