The conflict between Hamas militants and Israel has escalated, casting a shadow over the entire Middle East, as neighboring nations become entangled in the turmoil. U.S. President Joe Biden has implored allied groups not to become embroiled in the crisis.
Since Saturday, over 1,900 lives have been claimed on both sides. It all began when the Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, launched a surprise assault on Israel. This audacious attack involved a barrage of missiles raining down on the nation and armed gunmen taking to its streets.
The conflict’s scope has widened as shells were fired from both Syria and Lebanon into Israel, and Israel, in turn, shelled the sole land passage from Gaza into Egypt. Notably, this occurred just after an Israeli military spokesperson had urged civilians to use this route for evacuation.
Israeli troops are amassing on the border of the Gaza Strip, home to a population exceeding two million. This gathering of forces has raised questions about whether Israel is preparing for a ground offensive in the occupied Palestinian territory against Hamas.
This development came on the heels of an intensive aerial bombardment by Israel, which reduced buildings to rubble and sent people scrambling for cover in retaliation for the violence that erupted on Saturday. This violence has reportedly claimed the lives of around 1,200 Israelis. The Associated Press reports that Israel is prepared to mobilize 360,000 reservists after regaining control of the border with Gaza, which was unexpectedly breached by Hamas militants over the weekend.
Rescue teams in Gaza have encountered significant challenges, with ‘large numbers’ of people still trapped beneath the debris of flattened buildings. Rescue equipment and ambulances struggle to access these areas.
The situation has taken a grim turn as Israel adopts a new tactic of warning civilians to evacuate one neighborhood after another, followed by destructive actions that could be a precursor to a ground invasion.
On Tuesday, residents of the nearby al-Daraj neighborhood were told to evacuate, and shortly thereafter, new explosions reverberated through the area, continuing into the night. According to Israeli military officials, dozens of fighter jets struck over 70 targets in the region, with Hamas being accused of orchestrating attacks against Israel from this neighborhood.
In one devastating incident, Gaza City’s seaport was struck, resulting in fishing boats being engulfed in flames.
Hamas appeared to be counting on the conflict spreading to the West Bank and possibly hoped for Lebanon’s Hezbollah to open a northern front. In the West Bank, days of confrontations between Palestinians hurling rocks and Israeli security forces have resulted in the deaths of 15 Palestinians. Israel has imposed strict restrictions on movement between communities in the West Bank.
Violence has also spilled into East Jerusalem, where Israeli police reported killing two Palestinians who were hurling stones at them late on Tuesday.
Across Israel’s northern border, brief exchanges of fire have occurred almost daily. Palestinian militants fired rockets into northern Israel from both Lebanon and Syria on Tuesday, prompting Israeli artillery and mortar fire in response.
Hamas has issued a threat to kill an Israeli civilian captive each time Israel targets civilians in their homes in Gaza ‘without prior warning,’ in an attempt to deter the bombardment in Gaza.
According to Sinai for Human Rights, an Egyptian non-governmental organization, the ongoing strikes have compelled the closure of the border between Gaza and Egypt.