Water is running out in Gaza, Israel continues to prevent humanitarian aid – Mondoweiss


Key Developments

  • UNRWA: 1 million Palestinians have been displaced in 1 week
  • Israeli airstrikes target southern Gaza after ordering forcible expulsion of Gazans from the northern Strip to the south
  • Two Palestinians killed every 10 minutes, human rights group EuroMed Monitor says
  • October 14 was the deadliest day of Israel’s war on Gaza, with more than 300 killed in a day, including dozens who were fleeing to safety.
  • Israeli tanks are massing along the Gaza border, though the Israeli army has yet to make an official announcement of a ground invasion.
  • Cross-border fighting intensifies between Hezbollah and Israeli forces on the northern Israel-Lebanon border.
  • Israeli forces kill 7 Palestinian children in the West Bank in 24 hours
  • Several Palestinian villages in the West Bank are being depopulated due to Israeli settler, soldier violence.
  • Gazan medical staff defiant in face of Israeli army orders to evacuate hospitals, WHO calls it a “death sentence.”
  • Gaza government media office says bodies piling up, will start burying dead in mass graves.
  • Israeli communications minister pushes to shut down Al Jazeera offices.
  • 47 Gazan families entirely wiped out by Israeli airstrikes.
  • Protests across Europe, U.S., and the Middle East grow in support of Palestine.
  • Israeli army spokesperson says 279 Israeli soldiers killed, 126 Israelis captured by Hamas.

Deadliest 24 hours since war began

Sunday, October 15, marked the ninth day since Operation Al-Aqsa Flood was launched by Hamas out of Gaza. Israel has continued to pound the Gaza Strip with airstrikes every day since, killing at least 2,329 Palestinians, including more than 700 children. 

Israel has killed more Palestinians in Gaza in nine days than it did over the course of 50 days during “Operation Protective Edge” in 2014, which, up until today, had been one of Israel’s deadliest offensives on Gaza since the beginning of its siege in 2007. 

According to Gaza’s health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra, the past 24 hours were the deadliest since Israel’s bombardment began, with more than 300 Palestinians killed. The ministry added that since Saturday, October 7, 47 Palestinian families, numbering 500 people, including dozens of children and infants, have been wiped out by Israeli airstrikes. 

Palestinian Authority-owned Wafa news agency reported that dozens of Palestinians were laid to rest on Sunday in a mass grave in Gaza City. Palestinians in Gaza have been reporting bodies piling up in the streets and outside hospitals, as Gazans struggle to bury their dead due to the sheer number of casualties and lack of space.  

Palestinians dig a mass grave to bury the large number of deaths killed by Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip, on 15 October 2023. (Photo: Yousef Khateb / APA Images)
Palestinians dig a mass grave to bury the large number of deaths killed by Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip, on 15 October 2023. (Photo: Yousef Khateb / APA Images)

“When I drove from north Gaza to Shifa [hospital] last night, the stench of decaying bodies every time you drove by a destroyed building was overwhelming. No time to dig up the bodies,” Dr. Ghassan Abu Sitta, a surgeon in Gaza, posted on Twitter. 

Over the weekend, dozens of Palestinians were killed by Israeli airstrikes as they fled to southern Gaza along designated “safe routes,” following orders on Friday by the Israeli army to evacuate 1.1 million Gazans out of northern Gaza. Despite video and eyewitness testimony corroborating the reports that civilian vehicles and trucks were targeted while evacuating, the Israeli army has denied the reports, instead blaming Hamas, claiming the latter set up a “booby trap” that killed the civilians.

“We’re in a state of annihilation, and the world stands by,” al-Qudra said, speaking from Gaza’s main hospital, al-Shifa’, in Gaza City. 

On Saturday and Sunday, dozens of reports flooded in from Palestinian journalists and civilians that Israeli forces were targeting areas in the southern Gaza Strip after it had ordered millions of people to flee there. Mondoweiss Gaza correspondent Tareq Hajjaj said Israeli airstrikes were conducted in Khan Younis in the south on Sunday, October 15. Airstrikes on Sunday morning also targeted the Jabaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza and Gaza City, killing over a dozen people. 

Local Palestinian media outlets also reported heavy Israeli artillery shelling along the southeastern borders of Gaza near Rafah and Khan Younis, causing deaths, injuries, and significant damage to homes. 

 According to the human rights group Euro-Med Monitor, Israel is killing an average of 14 Palestinians every hour in Gaza. The group added that since October 7, Israel has dropped the equivalent of one-quarter of a nuclear bomb on Gaza. 

Gaza is one of the most densely populated areas on the planet, with 2.3 million Palestinians, half of whom are children, living in an area of about 139 square miles. 

Israel’s attacks have also destroyed 2,650 residential buildings, 65 government buildings, and 18 mosques, according to Euro-Med Monitor. The attacks have also caused severe damage and destruction to approximately 70,000 residential units, 71 schools, 145 industrial facilities, 61 media headquarters, and dozens of ancient churches and mosques.

UNRWA director of communications Juliette Touma told AFP that an estimated one million Palestinians had been displaced in the first seven days of the war on Gaza. According to reports, 35,000 Palestinians have taken refuge in the Shifa’ Hospital Medical complex in Gaza City. 

Despite 22 Gaza hospitals being subjected to Israeli military threats to evacuate, Palestinian doctors and health officials have remained defiant, saying they will continue to remain in their positions and will not let their patients die without them. 

“Forcing more than 2,000 patients to relocate to southern Gaza, where health facilities are already running at maximum capacity and unable to absorb a dramatic rise in the number of patients, could be tantamount to a death sentence,” the World Health Organization said in a statement Saturday. 

“Additionally, tens of thousands of displaced people in northern Gaza are seeking refuge in open spaces in or around hospitals, treating them as havens from violence as well as to protect the facilities from potential attacks. Their lives, too, are at risk when health facilities are bombed,” the WHO said. 

Palestinians fill their jerry cans with water from a public water collection point, as raging battles between Israel and the Hamas movement continue for the seventh consecutive day in Gaza City on October 12, 2023.  Thousands of people, both Israeli and Palestinians have died since October 7, 2023, after Palestinian Hamas militants based in the Gaza Strip, entered southern Israel in a surprise attack leading Israel to declare war on Hamas in Gaza on October 8. (Naaman Omar/ APA images)
Palestinians fill their jerry cans with water from a public water collection point, as raging battles between Israel and the Hamas movement continue for the seventh consecutive day in Gaza City on October 12, 2023. (Photo: Naaman Omar/ APA images)

Humanitarian situation in Gaza ‘untenable’

Water is running out fast in Gaza, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) warned on Saturday, with the agency’s Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini saying, “It has become a matter of life and death. It is a must; fuel needs to be delivered now into Gaza to make water available for 2 million people.”

In the early days of Israel’s “Operation Iron Swords,” which it launched just hours after the surprise Hamas operation on October 7, Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced that it was completely cutting off Gaza from any water, electricity, food, and humanitarian aid.

Sunday marked six days since that announcement, and the situation continues to worsen by the hour, humanitarian groups warn. Since Gaza’s power plant and public water networks stopped working, Gazans have been forced to use dirty water from wells, increasing risks of waterborne diseases, UNRWA said. Additionally, the agency reported that Gaza has been under an electricity blackout since October 11, further impacting the Strip’s water supply. 

“Having some water for [a] shower is like being in a five-star hotel,” a UNRWA staff member in Gaza said. In southern Gaza, where tens of thousands of Palestinians have evacuated since Friday, drinking water is also running out. 

“We need to truck fuel into Gaza now. Fuel is the only way for people to have safe drinking water. If not, people will start dying of severe dehydration, among them young children, the elderly, and women. Water is now the last remaining lifeline. I appeal for the siege on humanitarian assistance to be lifted now,” UNRWA’s Lazzarini said. 

Reports from CNN on Sunday afternoon claimed that Israel had “turned the water pipes back on” in southern Gaza. Mondoweiss was not able to independently verify if this information was accurate. Notably, the report did not mention northern Gaza, which would indicate that as part of its effort to continue exert pressure on the 1.1 million residents of northern Gaza and expel them from that part of the territory , Israel was not returning water to that part of the Strip.

Refaat al-Areer, a resident of Gaza posted on X that returning water to millions of Gazans was not as simple as “turning on the taps.”

In addition to the rapidly declining water supply and massive power outages, Gazans are also running out of food.

Mondoweiss correspondent Tareq Hajjaj said supermarkets across the Strip are virtually empty. “Lines to buy bread at the bakeries are four, five hours long. Sometimes even more than that. The situation is really, really desperate.”

The World Health Organization has called for the “immediate and safe delivery of medical supplies, fuel, clean water, food, and other humanitarian aid into Gaza through the Rafah crossing” on the southern Egypt-Gaza border. According to the organization, “life-saving assistance” from the WHO and other global agencies are awaiting entry at the Rafah border. 

According to Reuters, at least five planes carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza have arrived over the past week to Egypt and are awaiting Israeli approval for entry. 

West Bank death toll rises as settler attacks spike

Seven Palestinian children, all teenage boys, were killed by Israeli forces in the span of 24 hours in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, Defense for Children International Palestine (DCIP) said on Saturday. 

DCIP said the seven Palestinian boys were all between the ages of 14 and 17, and were killed by Israeli forces during protests, “as Israeli forces increasingly use intentional lethal force in violation of international law to repress Palestinian protests.”

Two of the boys, Muhammad Taher Ali Mustafa, 17, and Laith Osama Zaal Abu Mara, 17, were both shot and killed in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of al-Issawiya. Hussain Mutaz Hussain Mousa, 16, was shot in the back of the head by Israeli forces during a protest in the Ramallah-area village of Beit Liqiya. Ayham Iyad Issa Jabarin, 17, was shot and killed in the town of al-Ram, near Ramallah city. 

Three boys were shot and killed in different incidents in the Tulkarem area in the northwestern West Bank. Rafat Thaer Ahmad Abu Mhana, 17, was killed in Tulkarem, when Israeli forces opened fire on the vehicle he was in, shooting him in the head. Omar Ahmad Abdulrahman Asmar, 14, was also shot in the Tulkarem district, in the village of Zeita, as he was participating in a demonstration that was marching toward Israel’s separation wall. Muhammad Rafat Muhammad Udwan, 16, was shot and killed during a protest in the village of Faroun. 

Another Palestinian boy was killed on Sunday, identified by the Ministry of Health as 17-year-old Karam Dweikat. According to Wafa, Dweikat was shot and killed by Israeli forces during demonstrations in the Nablus-area village of Beita

At least 16 Palestinian children have been shot and killed in the occupied West Bank since October 7. The Palestinian Ministry of Health reports that, in total, 56 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank in the same time period. 

“Israeli forces know no bounds and are empowered to shoot to kill Palestinians, including children, and now, as a matter of routine, unlawfully shoot and kill Palestinian children,” DCIP’s  Ayed Abu Eqtaish, accountability program director, said in a statement. 

Sami Huraini, a resident of Masafer Yatta and local activist, told Mondoweiss that the situation in the area was “terrifying.” “The settlers are aggressive, they want to force the people out, with bullets, fear, and terror.”

“We are witnessing attacks against Palestinians throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory as Israeli forces and settlers are emboldened by systemic impunity and international support to commit war crimes on a whim.”

Since October 7th, dozens of instances of Israeli settler violence against Palestinians have been reported, with at least three Palestinians killed as a direct result of Israeli settler fire. According to a report by +972 magazine, at least two Palestinian villages in the West Bank, Wadi al-Siq and al-Qanub, have been completely depopulated as a result of settler violence.

Sources told Mondoweiss that settlers brutally attacked Palestinian activists and residents of Wadi al-Siq last week, with one activist saying “it was brutal. The nature of the attack was too horrible to even speak about.”

According to activists, a number of other villages in the West Bank are also under threat of imminent expulsion, including the village of Ein Rashrash, where residents have already begun the process of leaving. 

“We are facing an acute danger of vast proportions—an irreversible disaster. Once the Palestinian families leave, the settlers are quick to arrive and raze the village to the ground. The eyes of the world are turned elsewhere–perhaps understandably so, given the unbelievable civilian death toll on both sides of the Gaza border–but by the time the world turns its gaze back to what is happening in Area C, it may well be too late,” activists said. 

The majority of the villages in the West Bank that are experiencing this type of forcible displacement are rural, bedouin villages that are extremely vulnerable to attacks from nearby settler outposts, which are home to some of the most violent, ideological settlers in the West Bank. 

In Masafer Yatta, or the South Hebron Hills, in the southernmost part of the West Bank, Israeli settlers have been stepping up their attacks on Palestinian residents under the protection of the military. An Israeli settler shot and injured a Palestinian man from the village of al-Tuwani at point blank range on Friday. On Saturday, October 14th, settlers attacked three different hamlets in Masafer Yatta, vandalizing peoples homes and water tanks, Wafa reported.   

Sami Huraini, a resident of Masafer Yatta and local activist, told Mondoweiss that the situation in the area was “terrifying.” “The settlers are aggressive, they want to force the people out, with bullets, fear, and terror.”

Israeli military combat vehicles and tanks near the Israeli-Gaza, October 15, 2023. (Photo: © Ilia Yefimovich/dpa via ZUMA Press)
Israeli military combat vehicles and tanks near the Israeli-Gaza, October 15, 2023. (Photo: © Ilia Yefimovich/dpa via ZUMA Press)

Tensions rise on the northern border as Hezbollah strikes Israeli targets

Since the evening of October 14, tensions have continued to rise on occupied Palestine’s northern border with Lebanon. Following the killing of a Lebanese journalist the day before and the injury of several others, as well as the ongoing shelling of Gaza, several rockets have been launched into Israel by Hezbollah, which have continued intermittently into October 15 and throughout the day. At 4:47 p.m. today, nine rockets were reported to have been launched from southern Lebanon.

Hezbollah also said that it targeted an Israeli military post in Shtoula in response to the killing of the Lebanese journalist, Issam Abdallah. This move is significant since Hezbollah is no longer only targeting Sheba’a Farms — which is occupied Lebanese territory — and has also started targeting areas within Israeli territory in occupied Palestine.

This also comes on the back of an ultimatum from Iran the day before, warning Israel of “far-reaching consequences” if Israel does not halt its war crimes in Gaza. According to Aljazeera, Iran’s foreign minister said that Israel would face a “huge earthquake” if the conflict with Israel widened on multiple fronts.

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