Written by Nidal Al-Mughrabi, Dan Williams, and Humeyra Pamuk
GAZA/JERUSALEM/CAIRO (Reuters) – Israeli forces continued their bombardment of Gaza on Monday after diplomatic efforts to arrange a ceasefire to allow foreign passport holders to leave and bring aid into the besieged Palestinian enclave failed.
Residents in the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas), said the air strikes overnight were the heaviest yet as the conflict entered its tenth day with an imminent Israeli ground attack expected.
They said the bombing continued throughout the day, and many buildings were flattened, trapping more people under the rubble. Israeli officials have issued multiple warnings about Hamas launching rockets into Israel.
Diplomatic efforts are underway to deliver aid to the Strip, which has suffered from sustained Israeli bombardment since the October 7 attack on Israel by Hamas militants that killed 1,300 people – the bloodiest day in the country’s 75-year history.
But Israeli army spokesman Admiral Daniel Hagari said that there is no ceasefire in Gaza and that Israel is continuing its operations.
He added, “There are no such efforts currently. If anything changes, we will inform the public. We are continuing our fight against Hamas, this murderous organization that carried out these (attacks).”
Israel has imposed a full blockade and is preparing a ground invasion to enter Gaza and destroy Hamas, which has continued to fire rockets into Israel since its brief cross-border offensive. The Israeli army announced that sirens sounded on Monday in several towns in southern Israel.
Israeli troops and tanks have already been mobilized on the border.
The authorities in Gaza said that at least 2,750 people have been killed so far in Israeli raids, a quarter of them children, and about 10,000 were injured. Another 1,000 people are missing and believed to be under the rubble.
With food, fuel and water running out, hundreds of tons of aid from several countries have been detained in Egypt awaiting an agreement to deliver it safely to Gaza and the evacuation of some foreign passport holders through the Rafah border crossing.
Earlier on Monday, Egyptian security sources told Reuters that an agreement had been reached to open the crossing to allow aid to enter the enclave.
But the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement: “There is currently no truce and no humanitarian aid in Gaza in exchange for the removal of foreigners.”
Izzat al-Rishq, a Hamas official, told Reuters that there was no truth to the reports about opening the crossing or a temporary ceasefire.
Egypt said that the crossing had become inoperable due to Israeli bombing on the Palestinian side. Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said on Monday that the Israeli government has not yet taken a position that allows the crossing to be opened.
Reuters journalists said that a small crowd of people gathered at the crossing, the only crossing not controlled by Israel, waiting to enter Egypt.
The United States had asked its citizens in Gaza to go to the crossing. The US government estimates the number of dual Palestinian-Americans in Gaza at between 500 and 600 people.
Washington is also seeking to secure the release of 199 hostages that Israel says were returned to Gaza by Hamas. They include the elderly, women, children and foreigners, including Americans.
US President Joe Biden sent military aid to Israel, but also stressed the need to deliver humanitarian aid to Palestinian civilians and urged Israel to follow the rules of war in its response to Hamas attacks.
In northern Gaza, where Israel says Hamas activists are hiding in a complex network of tunnels, local residents said Israeli planes bombed areas around Al-Quds Hospital early Monday. Surrounding homes were damaged, forcing hundreds of people to take refuge in the hospital run by the Red Crescent.
Health officials said that Israeli aircraft also bombed three headquarters of the Civil Emergency Service and Ambulance in Gaza City, killing five people and paralyzing rescue services in those areas.
Israel urged Gazans to evacuate the south, which hundreds of thousands have already done in the enclave, which is home to about 2.3 million people. Hamas asked people to ignore Israel’s message, and residents fear Israeli air strikes in southern Gaza as well.
In the southern Gaza Strip, five members of one family were martyred in Khan Yunis refugee camp. Their neighbor, Suhail Bakr (45 years old), said that he woke up to the sound of an explosion.
Baker said: “We woke up in horror. We saw them dismembered, and the bulldozers took a long time removing the rubble to retrieve the bodies.”
On a nearby street, Abu Ahmed, an elderly man sitting outside his house, said: “Israel has made the decision to kill every one of us.”
Fuel reserves in all hospitals across the Gaza Strip are expected to last only about 24 additional hours, putting thousands of patients at risk, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said early Monday.
The United Nations said more than a million people – nearly half of Gaza’s population – have been displaced within the Strip, and it is struggling to meet their needs.
For the fifth day in a row, electricity has been cut off in Gaza, pushing vital services, including health, water and sanitation, to the brink of collapse. People consume brackish water from agricultural wells, raising concerns about the spread of diseases.
Blinken in Israel
American officials warned that the war between Israel and Hamas may escalate after cross-border clashes between Israel and militants from the Iranian-backed Lebanese Hezbollah.
As US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Israel for talks on Monday, Iran said the United States must be held accountable for its role in the conflict.
US aircraft carriers headed to the region and Israel said on Monday that it would evacuate the residents of 28 villages on the border with Lebanon after one of them was subjected to a missile attack by Iran-backed Hezbollah on Sunday. Israeli media said that a civilian was killed.
Video journalist Issam Abdullah, who worked for Reuters, was killed on the Lebanese side of the border on Friday.
(Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza, Ari Rabinowitz, Dan Williams, Henriette Shuker, Didi Huynh, Mayan Lobel, Emily Rose, James McKenzie, John Davison in Jerusalem, Parisa Hafezi in Dubai, Humeyra Pamuk, Hatem Maher and Ahmed Tolba.) Omar Abdel Razek in Cairo, Nandita Bose, Rami Ayoub and Catherine Jackson in Washington, Michelle Nichols at the United Nations; Writing by Angus MacSwan, Editing by Miral Fahmy and Philippa Fletcher)
“Unapologetic tv specialist. Hardcore zombie trailblazer. Infuriatingly humble problem solver.”