Gaza’s Sole Power Plant Shuts Down as Israel Readies for Expected Ground Invasion

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GAZA – The only power plant in the Gaza Strip, which is under fierce Israeli bombardment and siege, shut down on Wednesday after it ran out of fuel, said the Palestinian enclave’s electricity authority.

“The only power plant in the Gaza Strip stopped functioning at 2pm (1100 GMT),” the authority’s head Jalal Ismail said in a statement, having earlier warned that it was running short of fuel.

The United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees told Al Jazeera that it had less than two weeks’ supply of food and water to assist the more than 180,000 Palestinians who have sought refuge in their schools in Gaza.

Gaza’s health ministry said on Wednesday afternoon at least 1,055 Palestinians had been killed and 5,184 injured in the crowded coastal enclave since Saturday’s surprise attack while Israel’s military said the death toll there had reached 1,200 and more than 2,700 people had been wounded. Israel’s army said the bodies of roughly 1,500 fighters had been found.

Israel said it had regained control of the border areas from the Palestinian group Hamas.

Fears of a regional conflagration have surged ahead of an expected Israeli ground incursion into Gaza, the crowded, impoverished enclave from where Hamas launched its land, air and sea attack on the Jewish Sabbath.

International NGOs issued a stark warning over the health and humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip.

Deadly airstrikes

“My entire life, I have seen Israel kill us, confiscate our lands and arrest our children,” said Farah al-Saadi, 52, a coffee vendor from Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank who praised the Hamas offensive.

The Israeli army has called up 300,000 reservists and massed tanks and other heavy armour both near Gaza and on the northern border with Lebanon, where exchanges of fire continued.

The military said its forces had largely reclaimed the embattled south and the border around Gaza, and dislodged holdout Hamas fighters from more than a dozen towns and kibbutzim.

Earlier, for the third time in 24 hours, an Israeli air strike hit Gaza’s Rafah border crossing with Egypt, an AFP photographer and an NGO said.

White smoke billowed from among fishing boats after an air strike on Gaza’s port, and in Jerusalem, the deserted streets were targeted by Hamas rocket fire.

“Israeli people they are scared of the Arabs and the Arabs are scared of the Jews… everybody is scared of each other,” said Ahmed Karkash, a shop owner in the Old City.

At least 30 more killed as Israel pounds Gaza overnight

At least 30 people have been killed and hundreds wounded as Israel pounded the Gaza Strip with hundreds of air strikes overnight, a Hamas government official said on Wednesday.

Dozens of residential buildings, factories, mosques and shops were hit, the head of the government’s media office, Salama Marouf, told AFP.

The Israeli military said it had hit several “Hamas targets” during the night. It said fighter jets destroyed “advanced detection systems” that Hamas used to spot military aircraft.

They also hit “80 Hamas targets” in the Beit Hanoun area of the northeastern Gaza Strip, including two bank branches allegedly used by the group to “fund terrorism” in the enclave, the military said.

Air strikes also hit a weapons storage facility and an operational command centre used by Hamas, it added.

Israel not acting ‘like a state’ in Gaza: Erdogan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said Israel was not conducting itself “like a state” in the Gaza Strip.

“Israel should not forget that if it acts more like an organisation rather than a state, it’ll finish by being treated as such,” Erdogan said, attacking “shameful methods” of the Israeli army in the densely-populated Gaza Strip.

“Bombing civilian sites, killing civilians, blocking humanitarian aid and trying to present these as achievements are the acts of an organisation and not a state,” he said.

“We think that a war should have an ethic and that both parties should respect it.

Unfortunately, this principle is gravely violated in Israel and in Gaza,“ he said, denouncing the “murders of civilians on Israeli territory” and “the blind massacre of innocents in Gaza subjected to constant bombardment”.

In Gaza City, streets are clogged with rubble and littered with shards of glass.

Mazen Mohammad and his family slept on the ground floor of their apartment block, huddling together as explosions rang out around them.

What they woke up to the next day was unrecognisable. “We felt like we were in a ghost town, as if we were the only survivors,” Mohammad, 38, told AFP.

Over 260,000 people have been forced to flee their homes in the Gaza Strip, as heavy Israeli bombardments from the air, land and sea continue to hit the Palestinian enclave, the United Nations said.

“Over 263,934 people in Gaza are believed to have fled their homes,” said UN humanitarian agency OCHA said in an update Tuesday, warning that “this number is expected to rise further”.

It said that around 3,000 people had been displaced “due to previous escalations”, prior to Saturday.

The bombing campaign has destroyed more than 1,000 housing units, and 560 have been so severely damaged they are uninhabitable, OCHA said, citing Palestinian authorities.

Among the displaced, nearly 175,500 people sought shelter in 88 schools run by the UN agency supporting Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, it said.

More than 14,500 others had fled to 12 government schools, while close to 74,000 were estimated to be staying with relatives and neighbours or seeking shelters in churches and other facilities.

The number of displaced people inside of Gaza “represents the highest number of people displaced since the 50-day escalation of hostilities in 2014,” it said.

“Meeting basic needs is becoming increasingly challenging for those who have not been displaced,” OCHA warned.

Israel has imposed what it called a “complete siege” on the already blockaded Gaza Strip, cutting off food, water, fuel and electricity — a move that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned would worsen an already dire humanitarian situation.

European Union foreign ministers urged Israel not to cut such essentials, and called for humanitarian corridors for those trying to flee.

UN human rights chief Volker Turk said such sieges are prohibited under international humanitarian law.

The United Nations said more than 187,500 people had been displaced inside Gaza, most taking shelter in UN schools.

Medical supplies, including oxygen, were running low at Gaza’s overwhelmed Al-Shifa hospital, said Mohammed Ghonim, a doctor in the emergency room.

Fear and chaos reigned among the 2.3 million Palestinians living in the coastal territory that has been hammered by thousands of Israeli munitions.

Four Palestinian journalists were also killed in Israeli air strikes on Gaza City, media unions and officials said. Explosions again shook Gaza City on Tuesday night.

Hamas said the strikes killed two of its senior figures: Zakaria Muammar led its economics section, and Jawad Abu Shamala coordinated ties with other Palestinian factions. Israel’s army also announced their deaths.

Waving Palestinian flag ‘may not be legitimate’: UK home secretary

UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman on Tuesday wrote to England and Wales chief constables, asking them to “use the full force of the law against displays of support for Hamas, other proscribed terrorist groups or attempts to harass and intimidate British Jews”.

the UK parliament member listed several actions which, according to her, would amount to “antisemitism or glorification of terrorism”.

Braverman contended: “Behaviours that are legitimate in some circumstances, for example the waving of a Palestinian flag, may not be legitimate such as when intended to glorify acts of terrorism.

“Nor is it acceptable to drive through Jewish neighbourhoods, or single out Jewish members of the public, to aggressively chant or wave pro-Palestinian symbols at,” she added.

“I would encourage police to consider whether chants such as “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” should be understood as an expression of a violent desire to see Israel erased from the world, and whether its use in certain contexts may amount to a racially aggravated section 5 public order offence,” she stated.

The home secretary also urged the police chiefs to ensure that “any reports of online offending are dealt with promptly”.

Noting that Hamas was a proscribed group in the UK, she said it was a criminal offence to “belong to Hamas, invite support for Hamas, express support for Hamas whilst being reckless as to whether the expression will encourage support of it, [or] arrange a meeting in support of Hamas”.

Braverman added that it was also an offence to “wear clothing or carry articles in public which arouse reasonable suspicion that an individual is a member or supporter of Hamas or publish an image of an article such as a flag or logo in the same circumstances”.

‘Blackmail’

On late Tuesday in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, troops backed by helicopters and drones exchanged fire with several fighters, leaving three of them dead, the army said.

A new barrage of rockets was also fired from Gaza towards Ashkelon. “Around 1,500 bodies of Hamas (fighters) have been found in Israel around the Gaza Strip,” army spokesman Richard Hecht said earlier.

In Kfar Aza kibbutz, where Israeli forces say Hamas massacred more than 100 civilians, Israeli soldiers prepared to remove several of their compatriots in black body bags.

Hamas fighters killed more than 100 people in the kibbutz of Beeri alone, said Moti Bukjin, a volunteer with the charity Zaka that recovers bodies in accordance with Jewish law.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned Israel’s military campaign following Saturday’s onslaught is only the start of a sustained war to destroy Hamas and “change the Middle East”.

Condemnation from Western leaders contrasted markedly with pro-Palestinian sentiment in the Arab world, people distributed sweets, danced and chanted prayers in support of “resistance” to Israel’s long-standing occupation of Palestinian territories.

United States President Joe Biden condemned the Hamas attacks as “sheer evil”, and Netanyahu said the fighters committed “savagery never seen since the Holocaust”, including the beheading of soldiers.

In a speech on Tuesday, Biden confirmed at least 14 Americans were killed, and others were missing.

The US has sent an aircraft carrier and other warships to the eastern Mediterranean as part of efforts to deter an expansion of the conflict, and is also providing other assistance, including sharing intelligence with Israel.

Relatives of Americans believed held in Gaza called on the Biden administration to bring them home safely.

Western powers and many other nations have reported citizens killed, abducted or missing. These include: Brazil, Cambodia, Canada, Ireland, Mexico, Nepal, Panama, Paraguay, Russia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Ukraine.

Hamas has held around 150 captives since its ground incursion, among them children, elderly and young people captured at a music festival where around 270 died.

On Monday, Hamas warned it would start killing hostages every time Israel launches a strike on a civilian target in Gaza without warning. French President Emmanuel Macron called the threat “unacceptable blackmail”.

Taken ‘by surprise’

Israel has been left reeling by Hamas’s unprecedented ground, air and sea assault that began with thousands of rockets, likening it to the 9/11 attacks on the US.

In the aftermath, soldiers who were on guard duty along the hi-tech security barrier around Gaza recounted how the attack began with an effort to cripple observation cameras and communications.

“They took us by surprise and we weren’t ready for it,” a lookout soldier said in testimony posted on Instagram.

Israel faced the threat of a multi-front war after three days of clashes with fighters on the northern border with Lebanon.

For the first time since the Hamas attack, there was an exchange of fire between Israel and forces in Syria, after Israel’s military said munitions were fired towards the Golan Heights it has occupied since 1967.

Mourners in the southern Lebanese village of Khirbet Selm carried two caskets, draped in yellow Hezbollah flags, with the bodies of two fighters it said were killed in Israeli strikes a day earlier. A third fighter was also killed, the Iran-backed Hezbollah movement said.

On Tuesday, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades claimed a fresh salvo of rocket fire from south Lebanon towards Israel, the Israeli army said, adding it retaliated with artillery fire.

“It’s like a state of war,” said Yaakov Regev, sipping coffee at a petrol station in northern Israel, a few kilometres from the Lebanon border.

Unrest has also surged in the West Bank, where 15 Palestinians have been killed since Saturday.

Netanyahu, the leader at the helm of Israel’s hard-right coalition, has called for an “emergency government of national unity” after his administration’s proposal for judicial reforms split the nation and even its military this year, before the war brought the nation closer together.

Egypt

Egypt is moving to avert a mass exodus from the Gaza Strip into its Sinai Peninsula, as Israeli bombardment halted crossings at the main exit point from the Palestinian enclave on Tuesday, Gaza officials and Egyptian security sources said.

Israel’s assault on Gaza has caused alarm in Egypt, which has urged Israel to provide safe passage for civilians from the enclave rather than encouraging them to flee southwest towards Sinai, two Egyptian security sources said.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said on Tuesday that the escalation in Gaza was “highly dangerous” and that Egypt was pursuing a negotiated solution to the violence with regional and international partners.

Egypt would not allow the issue to be settled at the expense of others, Sisi said in comments reported by state news agency MENA, an apparent reference to the risk that Palestinians could be pushed into Sinai. -Agencies

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