The Signal

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Monday April 15th

Thousands of Palestinians and Israelis dead in Israel-Hamas war

<p><em>(Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/“</em><a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Israel-Palestine_flags.svg" target=""><em>Israel-Palestine flags</em></a><em>” by User:Justass. October 20, 2009). </em></p>

(Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/“Israel-Palestine flags” by User:Justass. October 20, 2009). 

By Gauri Patel
Staff Writer

Israel has formally declared war on Hamas, a militant group that governs, but does not represent all Palestinian people living in Gaza, after it launched an unprecedented attack by air, land and sea on southern Israel. The highly coordinated assault has killed thousands of people, both soldiers and civilians, with Oct. 7 being called the “deadliest day for Jews since the Holocaust” by United States President Joe Biden

Hamas militants fired over five thousand rockets toward Israeli towns from the Gaza Strip, a coastal enclave over which it has control, before breaking through portions of the heavily fortified, twenty-foot-tall fence at the Gaza barrier with bulldozers, according to The Associated Press. Hundreds of militants have crossed the border to launch ground attacks on civilians in several towns in southern Israel, storming into communities on motorboats, paragliders and pickup trucks. 

Hundreds of buildings were decimated and civilians were left trapped beneath the rubble. Simultaneously, Hamas armed fighters burst into homes, shooting residents and taking others, including women, children and the elderly, as hostages. Over 1,300 Israelis have been killed as a result of the attack and 3,200 left wounded, as of Oct. 15. Militants also opened fire at the Nova Festival, an outdoor music festival celebrating the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, taking some attendees hostage. At least 260 bodies were found at the rural farmland grounds about two miles from the Gaza-Israel border where the festival took place, according to CNN. 

“We didn’t even have any place to hide because we were at [an] open space,” Tal Gibly, a festival attendee, told CNN. “Everyone got so panicked and started to take their stuff.” Videos circulating on social media show hundreds of attendees running across an empty field with gunshots heard in the background. 

Hamas is a political party in the Gaza Strip that believes in the creation of a Palestinian state, according to NBC. Since its founding in 1987, it has espoused violence as a way to liberate occupied Palestinian territories. The U.S., Canada and the European Union designate it as a terrorist organization because of its previous attacks on Israel. Its actions are divisive among Palestinians and those who support establishing an independent Palestinian state due to its use of violence. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, Hamas has ties with Iran, which provides the organization with material and financial support, and Lebanon-based militant group, Hezbollah. 

Within hours of the attack, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu formally declared war on Hamas. The country retaliated by launching by far the most powerful bombing campaign in the 75-year-old history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, dropping about 6,000 bombs on Gaza between Oct. 7 and 12. Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) are targeting weapons storage centers and infrastructure used or occupied by Hamas militants, but, according to United Nations reports, at least a dozen health facilities in the territory have also been hit in the strikes, including 20 United Nations Reliefs and Works Agency facilities and schools sheltering displaced civilians. As of Oct. 15, over 2,300 Palestinians have been killed as a result of the airstrikes, more than half being women and children.

Since 2007, the Gaza Strip has been under a land, air and sea blockade instated by Israel and Egypt. The United Nations and international human rights groups have condemned the blockade and have described Gaza as “the world’s largest open-air prison” as residents are unable to leave the territory without Israeli-approved permits, according to NBC. Israel maintains that the blockade is meant to prevent border crossings and restrict what can go in and out of Gaza. Concrete walls and barbed wire fences also serve as a physical blockade meant to guard against Hamas’ attacks. 

A humanitarian crisis has unfolded in Gaza after Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant imposed a complete siege on the region, meaning food, water, fuel and electricity have been cut off for 2.2 million residents. The enclave’s only power plant has been switched off, and most hospitals, which are nearly at maximum capacity, are running out of fuel for backup generators. Gaza is on the brink of running out of clean water, fuel and critical supplies as no aid has been able to enter the region after Israel closed off its two border crossings with Gaza, leaving the only way in or out through the crossing with Egypt at Rafah. According to CNN, the Rafah crossing has not been officially closed, but airstrikes on the Palestinian side have prevented it from operating. 

The crisis is expected to worsen as more than 1 million residents of the Gaza Strip were told in paper notices dropped from the sky to leave their homes in the north within 24 hours and evacuate to the south before an anticipated ground invasion. The evacuation order unleashed a new level of panic as residents fear they do not have a safe place to go, and hospitals and clinics treating wounded patients from the nearly-constant attacks have no way of safely evacuating victims. 

Abu Safiya, who works with the international nonprofit MedGlobal, said his hospital is treating complex injuries, such as missing limbs and full-body burns. "Most of the injured, they're all children, all children," he told NPR in a voice message. "There's been evacuation orders. People have children, elderly. Where should they go?"

Israeli officials have vowed to “obliterate” Hamas using any means necessary, yet some of the tactics, which have resulted in a significant loss of civilian lives, are classified as war crimes under the Geneva Convention. A group of independent United Nations experts along with many human rights groups say the reprisal strikes on Gaza amount to “collective punishment” and that there is no justification for violence that indiscriminately targets civilians, whether by Hamas or Israeli forces. They also condemn the crimes committed by Hamas in their statement, saying its actions are violations of international law for which there must be accountability. 

The U.S. and many European countries condemned the attacks by Hamas, expressing solidarity for Israel and stating that the nation has a right to defend itself from armed attacks, whereas many Middle Eastern countries have expressed solidarity for the Palestinians, blaming the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories as the root cause for the escalation of violence. 

“So, in this moment, we must be crystal clear: We stand with Israel,” Biden said in a speech. “And we will make sure Israel has what it needs to take care of its citizens, defend itself, and respond to this attack.” The White House has confirmed that it has already begun delivering critically needed munitions and military equipment to Israel, including the Ford carrier strike group and A-10 fighter aircraft squadrons. 

The IDF has amassed military personnel and equipment at the border of Israel and Gaza after it announced plans to carry out “an integrated and coordinated attack from the air, sea and land.” With Israel calling up 360,000 reservists ahead of the attack, a cessation of hostilities seems to be a distant prospect.




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