Fri, Apr

'Death Zone': Over 700 Killed in 24 Hours as Israeli Bombing Blitz of Gaza Rages


GUEST COMMENTARY - More than 700 people were killed in the Gaza Strip in just 24 hours, the Health Ministry in the besieged territory said Sunday, as Israeli bombings escalated following a brief pause and wider evacuation orders stoke fears of wider displacement and carnage.

According to an Al-Jazeera dispatch :

Overnight and into Sunday, intense bombing was reported in Khan Younis, Rafah, and some northern parts targeted by Israel's air and ground attacks.

"Everywhere you turn to, there are children with third-degree burns, shrapnel wounds, brain injuries and broken bones," James Elder, UNICEF's global spokesperson, told Al Jazeera from Gaza.

"Mothers crying over children who look like they are hours away from death. It seems like a death zone right now."

The Israel Defense Force (IDF) has been dropping evacuation leaflets across the south of Gaza in cities that include Khan Younis, Rafah, and others neighborhoods where many had been told to flee by Israel prior to the recent week-long pause.

The IDF is now using a wholly invented "grid system" to tell Palestinians in Gaza which sectors might be safe and which ones will not, leading to reports of widespread confusion on the ground for those trying to keep themselves and their families safe from the indiscriminate bombing.

"What Israel is doing in Gaza right now is one of the most cruel tactics of war I've ever seen," said Rohan Talbot, director of advocacy and campaigns for the U.K.-based Medical Aid Palestine, on Sunday. "This grid system effectively means people are being chased from square to square, in constant mortal fear. Bombing happens both inside and outside 'unsafe' areas. It's terrorism."

"And they say it's about protecting civilians! People in Gaza are saying they hope to die just to be free from the fear!" Talbot declared. "I use the word terrorism in its specific sense: using violence to intimidate civilians for political aims. Israeli leaders don't hide that this is what they are doing."

In a statement on Sunday, U.N. Human Rights Chief Volker Türk called for an end of the new wave of bombardents and a return to the talks that saw Israeli and Palestinian hostages freed and an increase in humanitarian aid allowed into Gaza.

"Silence the guns and return to dialogue—the suffering inflicted on civilians is too much to bear. More violence is not the answer. It will bring neither peace nor security," Türk said.

"As a result of Israel's conduct of hostilities and its orders for people to leave the north and parts of the south, hundreds of thousands are being confined into ever smaller areas in southern Gaza without proper sanitation, access to sufficient food, water and health supplies, even as bombs rain down around them,” he added "There is no safe place in Gaza."

Last week, it was reported that the Israeli military is using artificial intelligence to help generate bombing targets, a situation described as "dystopian" and the "first AI-facilitated genocide in history."

Horrifying scenes were evident across Gaza over the weekend as witnesses shared footage of children killed by the bombings along with the heartbreak and cries of survivors:

In the north, the Jabilia refugee camp, the largest in the Gaza Strip, was bombed again on Saturday.

"More than 100 Palestinians were killed Saturday in a new massacre committed by Israeli occupation forces in the Jabalia refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip," the official Palestinian news agency Wafa reported.

The agency said an Israeli missile hit a residential building belonging to the "Obaid family in Jabalia camp" and that "dozens were injured, and many others are still missing under the rubble," in that strike alone.

Meanwhile, Medicin Sans Frontier/MSF doctors reported their rescue vehicles, despite being clearly marked, were targeted by Israeli tanks.

Jason Lee, the Palestine country director for Save the Children, who was in Rafah on Friday, told the Guardian newspaper that what's being witnessed is a fresh population transfer in a country where 1.7 million people—out of an approximate total of 2.3 million—have already been displaced, with most now frantically trying to find safety in the south.

"How is it possible for people to move again? For many, this is not their first evacuation. The scale and scope of this is unprecedented," he said.

(Jon Queally is a managing editor of CommonDreams.org where this story was first published.)