At least 76 people have been killed in the Gaza Strip on Thursday alone, as of the afternoon, as civilian losses in the strip mount after 18 days of intense military operation by the Israeli army.
Thursday’s deaths include at least 15 Palestinians who died after the Israeli military bombarded a school in Beit Hanoun, in northeast Gaza, the strip’s Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf Al-Qedra said. Evacuation orders and damage to homes has forced tens of thousands of Gazans to flee their houses and seek shelter inside UN-administered and governmental schools.
The death toll on the Palestinian side has reached 771, with nearly 4,750 injured. At least 518 of the deaths in Gaza are those of civilians, of which 170 are children and 86 are women, the latest situation report by the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said.
OCHA said a new humanitarian pause is “urgently needed”.
On the Israeli side, at least 32 soldiers and three civilians have died. The latest civilian casualty in Israel was a Thai migrant worker, who was killed after a rocket was fired from the strip into Israel.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said 25 people were evacuated from Southern Gaza’s Khuza’a village Thursday morning, as bodies continue to be retrieved from the area, which was subjected to intense artillery fire by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Al-Qedra denounced Israel’s “siege of ambulances” in Khuza’a.
Additionally, bodies continue to be pulled from underneath the rubble in East Gaza’s Al-Shuja’iah neighbourhood, which has been subjected to extremely intense shelling and airstrikes throughout the week.
The OCHA report said at least 116 schools have been affected by shelling since last week “due to their close proximity to targeted sites”. Additionally, the report stated that “at least 18 medical facilities have been hit by airstrikes and shelling” since the start of the Israeli military operation.
Israel launched its military operation in the Gaza Strip on 7 July but the operation drastically escalated on 17 July, when Israel started a ground operation in the strip.
The operation has resulted in the displacement of at least 140,000 who are seeking shelter in 83 UN-administered schools and thousands of others who have sought shelter in government schools. The OCHA report said: “Intense overcrowding, compounded by the limited access of humanitarian staff to certain areas, is increasingly undermining the living conditions at many shelters and raising protection concerns.”
Citing human rights organisations, the OCHA report states that an estimated “564 residential properties, including many multi-storey buildings” have been destroyed or severely damaged, after being targeted by the Israeli military. The report added: “The killing of multiple members of the same families as a result of the targeting of homes remains a matter of serious concern.”
The IDF alleges that Hamas uses “houses as command centres” and that it “operates from within densely populated areas”.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said on Wednesday: “Attacks against military objectives must offer a definite military advantage in the prevailing circumstances, and precautions must be taken to protect civilian lives. The fact that an attempt to warn civilians has been made, does not release the attacker from its obligation to spare civilian lives.”
Israel’s stated aim of this military operation is to “stop Hamas rocket fire into Israel”. Pillay described this rocket firing as indiscriminate and said: “Israeli children, and their parents and other civilians, also have a right to live without the constant fear that a rocket fired from Gaza may land on their houses or their schools, killing or injuring them.”
On Wednesday, the IDF shelled Al-Wafa Hospital. On twitter, the IDF said it warned Palestinian civilians to leave and defended the shelling: “Because Hamas uses Wafa Hospital for military purposes, the IDF hastargeted specific sites and terrorists within the hospital grounds.” The OCHA report stated that the shelling caused severe damage to the building.
The ongoing fighting has also caused intensive damage to public infrastructure. The OCHA report said: “Power supply is further reduced to a few hours per day in Gaza,” after two missiles landed in the vicinity of the Gaza Power Plant, causing it to suspend operations.