As if they were running out of time, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) increased the pressure on Gaza. The soldiers are carrying out offensives throughout the strip, now divided into three almost watertight sections. The southern zone concentrates the bombings, among the most intense ever recorded in the Palestinian territory. The Khan Younes refugee camp is the IDF's main target. The residents, who have received orders to evacuate but without real safe areas, are trying to shelter from the shots and bombs as best they can. The United Nations and NGOs also affirm that no place can be considered secure. The UN estimates that 1.87 million people, or 80 % of the population, have been forced to flee their homes. Thousands of them, on foot, piled into carts or their luggage piled on the roofs of their cars, continue to leave towards the south and the neighboring town of Rafah, already saturated and where the humanitarian situation is dramatic.
The streets of Khan Younes, where ground troops are also engaged, were almost empty on Wednesday while the dead and wounded flooded into hospitals, where there was a shortage of everything.
Two months after the start of the war triggered by the bloody Hamas raid, the Palestinians of Gaza live “in utter horror”, estimates the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk. “The attack on the civilian population today is one of the most serious of our time,” declared the Norwegian Refugee Council, a highly respected organization. The offensive would have left 16,000 dead in Gaza, 70% of them women and minors, according to the Hamas Ministry of Health.
IDF troops are carrying out operations on foot, particularly around Khan Younes, progressing with great difficulty in areas devastated by intense bombardment. “ We have secured many Hamas strongholds in the northern Gaza Strip, and we are now carrying out operations against its strongholds in the south,” Army Chief of Staff General Herzi said on Tuesday Halevi. The Israeli army believes that the main leaders of Hamas have found refuge in the south, and particularly its military leader, Yahya Sinwar, a native of Khan Younes. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday that the IDF had surrounded his family residence.
The fighting is said to be particularly bitter in this refugee camp as well as in the Jabaliya region, in the north of the Gaza Strip. The general staff deplored seven deaths in its ranks on Tuesday and two more on Wednesday afternoon, bringing the loss to 84 since the start of operations. Most were victims of anti-tank missile fire or improvised explosive devices. On Hamas apparently dynamited a house to make it fall on Israeli troops on Tuesday in Khan Younes, notes the ISW.
On the diplomatic front, Joe Biden once again asked to limit civilian losses. On Tuesday, the American Administration decided to impose sanctions against extremist Israeli settlers. Berlin welcomed the United States' decision on Wednesday and called on the European Union to in turn consider possible sanctions. In response, according to an NGO, the government approved the construction of 1,700 new housing units in a settlement neighborhood in East Jerusalem.