The Gaza Strip endured another day of airstrikes and shelling from land and sea on Monday. According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, 13 people were killed and 25 injured across the Strip, among them women and children. In the six days of Operation Protective Edge, 167 Palestinians have been killed and over 1,100 have been injured.
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Gaza hospitals reported a dire shortage of medicine and equipment, particularly for trauma injuries. Some hospitals cannot deliver the care required for the types of injuries they encounter.
The new development of the day was the evacuation of houses by thousands of residents of northern Gaza, mainly in Beit Lahiya and Beit Hanoun, following an ultimatum delivered by Israel. The Gazan Interior Ministry is calling on residents not to comply with these demands, which arrive through leaflets dropped from the air or over the phone.
It described the calls for evacuation as part of a war of nerves that Israel is waging against the Palestinians due to the failure of its occupation. Officials there said they are monitoring the situation and will evacuate residents themselves if necessary, not at Israel’s command. “We are in touch with international groups and with human rights groups operating in Gaza and up to this point there is nothing that requires the evacuation of the northern Gaza Strip,” said the Ministry’s announcement.
Due to official opposition to the evacuation there are no clear numbers, but estimates are that hundreds of families have left, numbering between 4,000 and 5,000 people. According to eyewitnesses, most of them showed up at UNRWA schools in Gaza city, converting classrooms into living quarters. Al Jazeera reported that UNRWA opened eight schools in the city for the evacuees. Witnesses report wrenching scenes of families moving on foot, in cars or on horse- or donkey-drawn carts, carrying essential items with them. They fear for the future and are highly anxious about the homes they leave behind. Many expressed the hope that the world would bring about a cease-fire before a land invasion takes place, which could wreak devastation in the northern Strip.
Two days ago the air force bombed a house belonging to Gaza’s Hamas-appointed chief of police Taysir al-Batash. The attack killed 21 people. The IDF has admitted that in that strike its policy of “knocking on the roof” (giving people a warning of an impending strike) was not implemented, in contrast to earlier statements indicating that warnings had been issued. An army investigation found that several of the dead were people emerging from prayers at an adjacent mosque. A senior IDF officer told correspondents yesterday that some of those killed were involved in terrorist activity, and that the decision to bomb al-Batash’s house came after the detection of people preparing to fire rockets from that area. The investigation of that incident continues.
Last week eight people defined as non-combatants were killed and 25 others injured in a bombing of the Kawara family house in Khan Yunis. The Air Force called that incident a malfunction. The IDF had stated that the house served as a “war room” for a Hamas company commander. A preliminary investigation showed that the residents of the house evacuated it after receiving a telephone warning. However, a smaller missile was then fired first, as a further warning. The residents mistakenly returned to the house before the large, payoff missile hit. “There was nothing we could do,” said a senior air force officer. “We saw them running back but the missile had already been launched.”
In the early hours of July 8, the house of Hafez Hamad, a senior commander in the Al-Quds military wing of Islamic Jihad, was blown up in Beit Hanoun. Hamad, 30, was killed along with five family members — his 62-year-old mother and 25-year-old wife, as well as two brothers and a nephew. Two children were hurt in the explosion, one lightly and the other moderately.
A male relative told journalists that the family had spent the night and early morning together, as is customary during the month of Ramadan. “Suddenly, three missiles hit without warning. The manner in which they were sitting at the entrance did not indicate a frightened family waiting to be attacked. Even if they were looking for someone like Hamad, does that give them the right to hit the whole family? This is a war crime,” said the relative. He added that Hamad and his wife left behind five children, including a three-month-old baby.
Egyptian President Abdel-Fatah al-Sissi talked with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon yesterday, and both noted the urgent need to reach a cease-fire. Sissi’s spokesman said the UN chief informed him that the Security Council would convene later this week and decide what steps to take. According to the Egyptian website Al-Youm Al-Sabea, the head of Egypt’s Military Intelligence, General Fareed al-Tuhami, arrived in Washington as part of the efforts to reach a cease-fire. He is discussing a blueprint for a deal with senior officials in the U.S. administration.