Rare fuel delivery enters Gaza, Israel steps up strikes

Trucks carrying fuel enter the Gaza Strip through the Rafah corssing with Egypt on 22 October, 2023. An aid convoy carrying desperately needed fuel entered Gaza on 22 October as Israel intensified strikes on the Palestinian enclave suffering a "catastrophic" humanitarian situation in the war sparked by Hamas's bloody attack

An aid convoy carrying desperately needed fuel entered Gaza on Sunday as Israel intensified strikes on the Palestinian enclave suffering a “catastrophic” humanitarian situation in the war sparked by Hamas’s bloody attack.

With fears of a wider conflagration mounting, Iran said the region could spiral “out of control” and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Lebanon’s Hezbollah that an intervention would be “the mistake of its life”.

Hamas militants stormed into Israel from the Gaza Strip on 7 October and killed at least 1,400 people, mostly civilians who were shot, mutilated or burnt to death on the first day of the raid, according to Israeli officials.

It was the worst attack on civilians in Israel’s history and coincided with the end of the religious holiday of Sukkot.

Israel’s retaliatory bombing campaign has killed more than 4,600 Palestinians, mainly civilians, according to the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza.

More than 40 per cent of Gaza’s housing has been damaged or destroyed, according to the UN citing local authorities, and Israel has halted food, water, fuel and electricity supplies.

Sunday’s 17-truck aid delivery through Gaza’s Rafah border crossing with Egypt was the second such operation in two days, after 20 lorries arrived on Saturday following negotiations and US pressure.

An AFP journalist saw six trucks enter from stores in the crossing. A Palestinian official at the crossing confirmed the trucks were carrying fuel.
Israel worries that Hamas could use fuel brought into Gaza to manufacture weapons and explosives.

The United Nations estimates that about 100 trucks per day are required to meet the needs of 2.4 million Gazans given the “catastrophic” humanitarian situation.

The head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees warned fuel supplies would run out in three days.

“Without fuel, there will be no humanitarian assistance,” Philippe Lazzarini said.

Israeli attacks intensify

Israel has massed tens of thousands of troops around the enclave for an anticipated ground invasion.

Israel increased its attacks overnight and killed “dozens of terrorists” in and around Gaza City, including the deputy commander of the Hamas rocket network, military spokesman Daniel Hagari said on Sunday.

Hamas said overnight raids on the Gaza Strip killed at least 80 people and destroyed more than 30 homes.

In central Gaza’s Deir al-Balah, an AFP journalist saw the bodies of children lie on the bloodied floor of a morgue.

A man clutched his dead toddler and people wept as they identified the bodies of their relatives.

Smoke billowed from sites across Gaza targeted by Israeli strikes.
Om Ahmad Abu Sanjar was sleeping in her Rafah home when she “woke up to the glass shattering on us and bricks falling”.

“We got out miraculously,” she told AFP.

The scale of the bombing has left basic systems unable to function, with the UN reporting dozens of unidentified bodies were buried in a mass grave in Gaza City because cold storage had run out.

Regional tensions rise

Israel has warned more than one million residents in northern Gaza to move south for their safety, and the UN says more than half of the territory’s population is now internally displaced.

Hundreds of thousands of civilians are believed to remain in and around Gaza City in the north, unwilling or unable to leave.

On Sunday, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said that if the United States and Israel “do not immediately stop the crime against humanity and genocide in Gaza, anything is possible at any moment and the region will go out of control”.

Fresh fire was also exchanged across Israel’s border with Lebanon, which the Israeli military warned could be dragged into the war by Islamist movement and Hamas ally Hezbollah.

On a visit to troops near the Israeli-Lebanese border, Netanyahu said Hezbollah would make “the mistake of its life” if it started a war with Israel.

“We will strike it with a force it cannot even imagine, and the significance for it and the state of Lebanon will be devastating,” Netanyahu added.

Western leaders have warned Hezbollah against intervening in the conflict, but the group’s number two has said it is ready to step up involvement.

Israel has evacuated dozens of northern communities, and nearly 4,000 people in Lebanon have fled border areas for the southern city of Tyre.
‘Brothers, stop!’

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Saturday that he had increased US military readiness in the Middle East.

The Pentagon said the move aimed to defend US ally Israel amid what it called “escalations by Iran” and its proxies across the region.

It also said it was notifying additional troops to “prepare to deploy orders” without specifying how many or when they could be dispatched.

A ground invasion poses myriad challenges for Israeli troops, who are likely to face Hamas booby traps and tunnels.

Israel must also weigh the safety of the 212 hostages it says were abducted by the militants.

After a Cairo peace summit involving regional and Western leaders finished without a joint statement, Pope Francis pleaded for the bloodshed to end during his weekly Angelus prayer in Rome on Sunday.

“War is always a defeat, it is a destruction of human fraternity. Brothers, stop!”

Shellshocked residents

In Israel’s Kibbutz Beeri, where Hamas militants killed 10 per cent of the population, funerals were being held on Sunday.

Mourners laid flowers and one coffin was wrapped in an Israeli flag.
Romy Gold, 70, said residents were still struggling to comprehend the attack.

“Around us whole families were shot or butchered or burned alive,” he told AFP.

The ground invasion of Gaza “cannot come fast enough”, he added.
“Something needs to be done.”

The conflict has sparked fresh violence in the West Bank, where Israeli raids and settler attacks have killed dozens of Palestinians, according to the UN.

Israel’s military said Sunday it killed “terror operatives” in an air strike on a mosque in Jenin.

The Palestinian health ministry said two men were killed in the strike.