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‘Operation Al-Aqsa Flood’ Day 14: 13 Killed In Raid On Refugee Camp

Above photo: The aftermath of the bombing of Greek Orthodox Church in Gaza, killing 17 people, October 20, 2023. Mohammad Abu Elsebah/dpa via ZUMA Press/APA Images.

Gaza Still Awaits Aid.

Israel bombed a church in Gaza, killing 17 people sheltering inside it. Meanwhile, UN aid through the Rafah crossing stalls, and the Israeli army launched a deadly raid on Nur Shams refugee camp in Tulkarem.

Casualties

Gaza: 4,137 killed, including 1,661 children. 13,260 wounded
West Bank: 81 killed, 1,400 wounded
Israel: 1,300 killed

Key Developments:

  • The death toll in Gaza surpassed 4,000 on Friday, which marked two weeks since the most recent fighting began.
  • Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the Southeast Asian bloc (ASEAN), numbering 16 countries, join growing calls for immediate ceasefire in Gaza.
  • UN Secretary-General travels to Rafah Crossing amidst mounting pressure, Israeli & U.S. promises that humanitarian aid will be able to enter Gaza.
  • Al Jazeera video analysis & investigations refute Israeli claims that failed PIJ rocket hit Gaza hospital.
  • Israel carries out 100 airstrikes overnight, targeting the ancient Christian Church in Gaza.
  • In special nationwide address, Biden tries to convince the American people that U.S. intervention in foreign conflicts “holds the world together,” prepares to ask Congress for $100 billion in aid, including military assistance to Ukraine and Israel.
  • Survey: Nearly 80% of Israelis blame Netanyahu for Hamas attack.
  • Israeli army spokesman: Airforces “striking at rates not seen in decades.”
  • Israeli defense minister: After Hamas “eliminated,” Israel will seek “new security regime” in Gaza.
  • Gaza health officials say they have received 1,400 inquiries on missing people, including 720 children.
  • Gaza health ministry spokesperson: Seven out of 21 Gaza health centers “out of service.”
  • Deadly Israeli military raid on West Bank refugee camp kills 12 Palestinians, including at least one child. One Israeli soldier killed, several wounded.
  • UN Human Rights Office calls for independent investigation into the bombing of the Al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza.
  • Israeli army has arrested 587 Palestinians from the West Bank since October 7, large majority affiliated with Hamas.

Israel Bombs Ancient Church In Gaza In Overnight Bombardment

On Thursday night, Israel bombed the Greek Orthodox St Porphyrius Church, the oldest church in Gaza, dating back to the 5th century.

According to the Ramallah-based Palestinian Minister of Health Mai al-Kaila, 17 Palestinians were killed in the airstrike, including Muslim and Christian families who had been sheltering in the church. The historic church also suffered major structural damage.

Located in the historic al-Zaytoun neighborhood of Gaza City, in close proximity to the recently bombed Al-Ahli Arab Hospital, the churched serviced members of Gaza’s Christian minority, which make up around 1% of the Strip’s population.

The Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem condemned the airstrike, placing the full blame on Israel. “Targeting churches and their institutions, along with the shelters they provide to protect innocent citizens, especially children and women who have lost their homes due to Israeli airstrikes on residential areas over the past thirteen days, constitutes a war crime that cannot be ignored,” the patriarch said in a statement.

The Israeli army told AFP that it “hit a command and control center involved in launching rockets and mortars towards Israel,” and acknowledged that “a wall of a church in the area was damaged.” The army added: “we are aware of reports on casualties. The incident is under review.”

In addition to targeting the church overnight, Israeli air forces also bombed the al-Omari Mosque in the northern Gaza Strip, completely destroying it, according to reports. The al-Omari mosque is reportedly the oldest and largest mosque in the Gaza Strip.

According to the Israeli army, Israel carried out 100 airstrikes overnight in the Gaza Strip — reflecting rates not seen in decades. Palestinian media reported that 21 Palestinians, including children, were killed in an airstrike overnight in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip. According to Wafa, Israeli air forces bombed six residential houses “simultaneously” in Khan Younis, killing 21 people and injuring 79 others. Eight of the people who were killed were members of the same family, Wafa added.

Other neighborhoods that were targeted in overnight strikes were the al-Zayoutn neighborhood and al-Shuja’iyya neighborhoods of Gaza City.

The Israeli military and Israeli officials have continued to speak of an imminent ground offensive on Gaza, though no clear plans have been made as to when that will happen. On Friday afternoon, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant made statements outlining Israel’s military plans in Gaza while speaking at a Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting in Tel Aviv.

According to the Times of Israel, Gallant told the committee that Israel’s war on Gaza consisted of three main phases: the current air offensive, and “later with a [ground] maneuver with the purpose of destroying operatives and damaging infrastructure in order to defeat and destroy Hamas.”

“The third step will be the creation of a new security regime in the Gaza Strip, the removal of Israel’s responsibility for day-to-day life in the Gaza Strip, and the creation of a new security reality for the citizens of Israel and the residents of the [area surrounding Gaza],” Gallant said.

Israel has enforced a full land, air, and sea blockade on Gaza since 2007, cutting off the Strip’s 2 million people from the outside world. Though Israeli military restrictions and occupation of Gaza existed before the siege, since its imposition, Israel has strangled Gaza’s economy, and vastly destroyed the Strip’s infrastructure over the course of multiple wars and offensives.

UN Facing “Restrictions” On Sending Aid Into Gaza Despite Israeli, US Promises

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres arrived at the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza on Friday, telling the press that the UN was still facing difficulties in coordinating the delivery of emergency aid into the Strip.

“We are actively engaging with all the parties in order to clarify these restrictions so we can have these trucks moving towards where they’re needed. We need these trucks moving as soon as possible,” Guterres said, adding, “We have two million people here who are suffering tremendously. There is no water, no food, no medicine, no fuel. Gaza needs everything to survive.”

Guterres added that the dozens of aid trucks lined up on the Egyptian side of the border are ready to move at any moment. According to a UN spokesperson, trucks should be entering Gaza in “the next day or so.”

It has been two days since the U.S. and Israeli governments made statements that humanitarian aid would be allowed into Gaza, and yet by Friday afternoon local time, no trucks had yet passed through the crossing.

According to Al Jazeera’s reporter on the ground in Gaza, Israeli airstrikes had left significant damage to the roads and infrastructure around the Rafah border crossing, impeding the entry of aid trucks into the Strip. On Friday morning, Egyptian teams were reportedly paving the roads and fixing any major damages to help facilitate the entry of the trucks.

Al Jazeera reported that some 175 trucks “crammed with vital medicine, food, and water” are waiting on the Egyptian side of the border, but UN representatives have said only 20 trucks will be allowed in the “first batch” of aid delivery. Representatives of the World Health Organization have said that in order to sufficiently address the urgent needs of Gazas, thousands of humanitarian aid trucks would be needed.

Israel further tightened its existing siege on Gaza following the surprise attack launched by Hamas on October 7. For nearly two weeks now, Israel has sealed off the Gaza Strip completely, preventing the entry of fuel, water, food, medical supplies, and more.

Human rights organizations have repeatedly expressed the urgent need for the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza, describing the humanitarian situation in the strip as “catastrophic.” On Thursday, doctors in Gaza posted photos on social media saying that they had resorted to using store-bought vinegar as an antiseptic due to the lack of medical supplies.

On Friday, the spokesman of the Palestinian health ministry said that seven out of the 21 hospitals and health centers in Gaza were officially “out of service” due to lack of supplies. Earlier this week, U.S. President Joe Biden promised $100 million dollars in humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. It was unclear exactly how much would be going to the Gaza Strip and how much to the Palestinian Authority-controlled West Bank.

While millions of Gazans continued to desperately await the arrival of humanitarian aid, U.S. President Joe Biden spoke to the American people in a special televised address on Thursday evening, saying that he planned to ask the U.S. Congress for $105 billion, significant portions of which would go to military aid for Ukraine and Israel.

Biden declared that American “leadership” held a vital role in holding “the world together,” and that providing arms, weapons, and defense systems to Ukraine and Israel would be a “smart investment that’s going to pay dividends for American security for generations.”

Biden’s proposal, which he is expected to put forward to Congress on Friday, would reportedly include $60 billion for Ukraine and  $14 billion for Israel, the Associated Press reported.

Nur Shams Refugee Camp Raid

The Israeli army launched a large-scale raid on the Nur Shams refugee camp in the northern West Bank city of Tulkarem on Thursday that lasted for almost 24 hours and killed 13 Palestinians, according to health officials.

Israeli forces invaded the camp in the early predawn hours of Thursday, shortly after 3 a.m., immediately sparking armed confrontations with local armed resistance groups in the camp. According to statements from armed resistance groups, as well as video footage published to various Telegram channels, Palestinian resistance fighters used live ammunition as well as IEDs and homemade explosives to target Israeli army forces.

One of the first Palestinians to be killed during the invasion was 15-year-old Taha Mahameed, who, according to Defense for Children International Palestine (DCIP) was unarmed and was standing outside of his house, watching the army invade the camp, when he was shot twice times, once in the head and once through the eye. Video footage published to social media purporting to show the moment Mahameed was killed corroborated DCIP’s description of the events.

The identities of the other 12 Palestinians killed in the raid remained unknown, but the Palestinian health ministry said five children were killed in the raid, and described it as a “massacre.”

Armed clashes in the camp lasted all day and night Thursday and into the early morning hours of Friday morning. Israeli forces used a rare drone strike on the camp – one of the first recorded instances of aerial bombardment used against Palestinians in the West Bank outside the Jenin refugee camp. 

According to reports, a significant number of casualties were reportedly caused by the drone strike. Israeli forces also used bulldozers to dig up streets in the camp and damage the camp’s infrastructure. Local media reported that Israel also cut off electricity, water, and access to the camp during the raids.

According to Israeli media, one border police officer was killed, and at least nine others were injured during the fighting. Israeli forces also said that 10 Palestinians were arrested.

In the early morning hours of Friday, as the raid on Tulkarem’s Nur Shams camp was ongoing, Israeli forces raided the Nablus-area village of Urif in large numbers and surrounded the home Khalid Sabah, a Palestinian who was killed in June of this year after allegedly carrying out a deadly shooting at the illegal Eli settlement. Israeli forces forced the Sabah family out of the home before blowing it up.

Israeli forces conducted raids in a number of other areas across the West Bank late Thursday and early Friday, arresting at least 55 Palestinians in one night. According to the Israeli army, it has arrested 587 Palestinians from the West Bank since October 7th, a large majority of whom are reportedly affiliated with Hamas.

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