KHAN YOUNIS, Gaza Strip — Doctors in Gaza warned Sunday that thousands could die as hospitals full of wounded people were desperately short of fuel and basic supplies. Palestinians in the besieged coastal enclave struggled to find food, water and safety ahead of an expected Israeli ground offensive in the war, sparked by Hamas’ deadly attack.
Israeli forces, backed by a growing deployment of US warships in the region, positioned themselves along the Gaza border and practiced what Israel said would be a broad campaign to dismantle the militant group. A week of blistering airstrikes has destroyed entire neighborhoods but failed to stop militant rocket fire into Israel.
According to the Gaza Health Ministry, 2,450 Palestinians have been killed and 9,200 injured since the fighting broke out, more than during the 2014 Gaza war, which lasted more than six weeks. That makes this the deadliest of the five Gaza wars for both sides.
More than 1,300 Israelis were killed in the Hamas attack on October 7, the vast majority of them civilians. An estimated 150 others, including children, were captured by Hamas and taken to Gaza. It is also the deadliest war for Israel since the 1973 conflict with Egypt and Syria.
Blinken could return to Israel
The US State Department said Secretary of State Antony Blinken would return to Israel on Monday after completing a hectic six-country tour of Arab countries aimed at preventing the fighting from sparking a wider regional conflict.
Fighting along Israel’s border with Lebanon, which has flared since the start of the latest Gaza war, intensified on Sunday as Hezbollah militants fired rockets and an anti-tank rocket and Israel responded with airstrikes and shelling. The Israeli army also reported shootings at one of its border posts. The fighting left at least one person dead on the Israeli side and several injured on both sides of the border.
A Hezbollah spokeswoman, Rana Sahili, said the increased fighting represented a “warning” and did not mean Hezbollah has decided to enter the war.
Two days worth of generator fuel
Hospitals in Gaza are expected to run out of generator fuel within two days, endangering the lives of thousands of patients, according to Gaza’s only power plant, which was closed due to a lack of fuel after Israel completely shut down the 40-kilometer-long power plant. ) long territory after the Hamas attack.
At Nasser Hospital, in the southern city of Khan Younis, intensive care rooms are full of injured patients, most of them children under the age of three. Hundreds of people with serious injuries from the explosion have rushed to hospital, where fuel is expected to flow. out Monday, said Dr. Mohammed Qandeel, a consultant at the intensive care complex.
There are 35 patients in intensive care who require ventilators and another 60 are on dialysis. If the fuel runs out, “it means the entire health care system will shut down,” he said, as children groaned in pain in the background. “All these patients are at risk of dying if the electricity is turned off.”
Dr. Hussam Abu Safiya, head of pediatrics at Kamal Adwan Hospital in northern Gaza, said it was not evacuated despite Israeli orders. There are seven newborns in intensive care connected to ventilators, he said. “We cannot evacuate, that would mean death for them and other patients in our care.”
Patients continue to arrive with severed limbs, severe burns and other life-threatening injuries.
“It’s scary,” he said.
Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital, the territory’s largest, said it would bury 100 bodies in a mass grave as an emergency measure after the morgue overflowed and relatives were unable to bury their loved ones. Tens of thousands of people seeking safety have gathered on the hospital grounds.
Gaza was already in a humanitarian crisis due to growing shortages of water and medical supplies due to the Israeli siege. With some bakeries closed, residents said they could not buy bread. Israel has also cut off water supplies, leaving many dependent on brackish wells.
US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told CNN that Israeli officials told him they had turned on water supplies in southern Gaza. Israel’s energy and water minister, Israel Katz, said in a statement that water had been restored at a “specific point” in Gaza, but gave no further details. Aid workers in Gaza said they had not yet seen evidence that the water had returned.
Israel has ordered more than 1 million Palestinians – nearly half the territory’s population – to move south. The military says it is trying to clear civilians ahead of a major campaign against Hamas in the north, where the militants say they have extensive networks of tunnels, bunkers and rocket launchers.
Hamas urged people to stay in their homes, and the Israeli army released photos that it said showed a roadblock preventing traffic from moving south.
The UN and aid agencies say the mass exodus within Gaza, along with the full siege of Israel, will cause untold human suffering. The World Health Organization said the evacuation “could amount to a death sentence” for the more than 2,000 patients in northern hospitals.
About 500,000 people, nearly a quarter of Gaza’s population, took refuge in United Nations schools and other facilities across the territory, where water supplies were dwindling, said Juliette Touma, spokesperson for the UN refugee agency.
“Gaza is drying up,” she said.
1 million displaced people in Gaza
The army said on Sunday it would not target a specific route south in the coming hours, and again urged Palestinians to leave the north en masse. The army offered two courses and a longer window the day before. It says hundreds of thousands have already fled south.
The UN agency for Palestinian refugees says an estimated 1 million people in Gaza have been displaced in one week.
The US has been trying to broker a deal to reopen Egypt’s Rafah border crossing with Gaza so that Americans and other foreigners can leave and humanitarian aid gathered on the Egyptian side can be brought in. The border crossing, which was closed due to air raids early in the war, has yet to reopen.
Israel has said the siege will not be lifted until the prisoners are returned.
Hundreds of relatives of those captured by Hamas gathered outside Israel’s Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv late Saturday, demanding their release.
“This is my appeal to the world: please help bring my family, my wife and three children,” said Avihai Brodtz of Kfar Azza. Many expressed anger at the government, saying they still have no information about their loved ones.
Hamas’ rocket attacks on Israel continued on Sunday, prompting a wider evacuation from the southern Israeli town of Sderot. The town of about 34,000 people is about 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) from Gaza and has been a regular target of rockets. “The children are traumatized, they cannot sleep at night,” Yossi Edri told Channel 13 before boarding the bus.
Israeli goal: destroy Hamas
The army said on Sunday that an airstrike in southern Gaza had killed a Hamas commander blamed for killings in Nirim, one of several communities Hamas had attacked in southern Israel. Israel said it hit more than 100 military targets overnight, including command centers and rocket launchers.
Israel has called up some 360,000 military reserves and amassed troops and tanks along the Gaza border. Israelis living near the Gaza border, including residents of the town of Sderot, continued to be evacuated. Militants in Gaza have fired more than 5,500 rockets since the outbreak of hostilities, many of them reaching deep into Israel, as Israeli warplanes bomb Gaza.
Israeli officials said the goal of their Gaza offensive was to destroy Hamas.
“If Hamas thought we were going to fall apart, then no: we will tear Hamas apart,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the start of Israel’s cabinet meeting on Sunday.
Israeli officials gave no timetable for a ground invasion.