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Israel-Palestine war: Air strikes pummel Jabalia for second day as ground offensive continues

Palestinians search for survivors trapped under pulverised buildings amid a scarcity of rescue equipment
Palestinians try to pull a girl out of the rubble of a building that was destroyed by Israeli air strikes in Jabaliya refugee camp, on 1 November 2023 (AP)
By Lubna Masarwa in Jerusalem and Heba Nasser in London and Shaheryar Mirza in New York

Israeli air strikes on Wednesday pummelled Gaza's largest refugee camp for a second day, as Israeli forces reportedly pushed towards the outskirts of Gaza City.

The Palestinian health ministry said the Israeli army killed and wounded scores of people in a new "massacre" in the crowded camp in northern Gaza, a day after air strikes killed at least 100 people and wounded another 150.

Video footage showed extensive devastation with people and civil defence crews scrambling across a large area to pull wounded people and bodies from under flattened residential buildings.

Many were seen clawing through the rubble in search of survivors, amid a scarcity of rescue equipment. The number of casualties from Wednesday's attack was not immediately known. 

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"This is just the latest atrocity to befall the people of Gaza where the fighting has entered an even more terrifying phase, with increasingly dreadful humanitarian consequences," UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths said.

Tuesday's attack on the camp drew international and regional condemnations, with Jordan recalling its ambassador to Israel and Bolivia severing diplomatic ties in protest. Hamas said seven hostages, including three foreign passport holders, died in the bombing campaign.

The Israeli military said the strikes killed Hamas commander Ibrahim Biari who was reportedly responsible for organising the 7 October attack on Israel. Middle East Eye could not independently verify the claim.

Wednesday's strikes came as Israeli forces reportedly continued to press on with their ground offensive, with more tanks crossing into northern Gaza, reportedly reaching the outskirts of Gaza City.

Brigadier General Itzik Cohen, commander of Division 162 of the Israeli army, said "the division's forces are deep in the Gaza Strip, at the gates of Gaza City", the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.

"In the last five days we have dismantled many Hamas capabilities [and] attacked strategic installations," he added.

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Israel has been reluctant to provide details about the progress of its ground invasion in Gaza, which began on Friday, but fierce battles have reportedly taken place in recent days. Overnight, Gaza witnessed ground clashes in its northern, southern and eastern areas.

Israel said 15 soldiers died in ground fighting in Gaza on Tuesday, taking the number of forces killed since the start of the war to 330.

Israel deployed its forces into Gaza late last week following weeks of air, land and sea strikes on the besieged territory in retaliation for Hamas' attack, in which around 1,400 Israelis were killed and at least 220 were taken captive.

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A least 8,796 Palestinians, including 3,648 children and 2,290 women, have been killed, and over 22,200 were wounded in Gaza. Meanwhile, hundreds of people are still missing, with the vast majority believed to be dead and buried under the rubble.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel's war on Hamas would continue "until victory" despite "painful losses".

Warning sirens sounded in southern Israel on Wednesday, including in Ashkelon and Ashdod, as Hamas rocket fire continued.

Meanwhile, internet and phone networks were down across the Gaza Strip, in the second such blackout in days, the Paltel telecommunications agency said. 

Global network monitor Netblocks said the new blackout would mean "a total loss of telecommunications" for most of the enclave's 2.4 million residents.

Middle East Eye lost all contact with all its journalists in Gaza on Wednesday.

US doubts Netanyahu's political future

Politico reported on Wednesday that US President Joe Biden and White House aides discussed the possibility that Netanyahu's days are numbered.

Speaking to Politico, both current and former US officials said the White House is already looking to share lessons learned with Netanyahu's successor. 

"The current official said the expectation internally was that the Israeli PM would likely last a matter of months, or at least until the early fighting phase of Israel’s military campaign in the Gaza Strip was over, though all four officials noted the sheer unpredictability of Israeli politics," Politico reported. 

The report comes ahead of a visit by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken's visit to Israel and Turkey.

Middle East Eye also reported on Wednesday on a growing feud between US lawmakers and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac) after the powerful pro-Israel lobbying group attacked them for voting against a resolution supporting Israel.

Foreign nationals 

Amid the deteriorating reality for civilians in Gaza, the first group of Palestinians holding foreign passports crossed the Rafah crossing under a deal reached between Egypt, Israel and Hamas.

Egyptian state media said 361 foreigners and 45 injured Palestinians crossed to Egypt, but it was not immediately clear whether everyone had been admitted into the country.

The White House said "a handful" of Americans were among those allowed out of Gaza, with National Security Council spokesman John Kirby calling it a "significant breakthrough."

Meanwhile, the UK government said some British nationals were also able to leave and more would do so "in stages over the coming days."

eople walk through a gate to enter the Rafah border crossing to Egypt in the southern Gaza Strip on 1 November 2023 (AFP)
People walk through a gate to enter the Rafah crossing to Egypt in the southern Gaza Strip, on 1 November 2023 (AFP)

Hospitals across Gaza are breaking under the sheer number of wounded and are struggling to remain functioning amid a severe shortage of fuel, as Israel has refused to let humanitarian convoys deliver it.

Ambulances carrying the wounded can be seen entering Egypt through the Rafah crossing, with Egyptian medics conducting triage before transferring them to hospitals. Hours later, dozens of families, including women, children, and elderly, also crossed into Egypt.

Cairo has so far refused to accept the entry of Palestinians seeking to flee the war, out of fear that Israel will not allow them to return into Gaza.

West Bank raid

Also Wednesday, Israeli forces conducted a large-scale attack on the Jenin refugee camp at dawn, killing three Palestinians and wounding several others, as tensions continued to rise in the West Bank.

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Israeli forces stormed the camp supported by armoured vehicles, bulldozers, Apache helicopters, and rooftop snipers.

Israeli forces fired bullets, stun grenades and teargas towards Palestinians and their homes, the Palestinian state news agency Wafa reported. 

Several people were arrested, including Jamal Haweel, a lecturer at the Arab American University, and Fatah's secretary-general in Jenin, Atta Abu Rumaila, along with his son.

Some streets were bulldozed and a roundabout near the Palestinian Authority’s interior ministry headquarters was destroyed, along with electrical transformers, Wafa reported. 

At least 223 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces and settlers in the West Bank since the beginning of the war.

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