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‘Operation Al-Aqsa Flood’ Day 83: Israel Wages West Bank Invasion

Above photo: An Israeli military armored vehicle blocks a road leading to the Al-Faraa Camp for Palestinian refugees near Tubas during a raid at the camp in the Occupied West Bank on December 18, 2023. Mohammed Nasser/APA Images.

Amid ongoing attacks on Gaza, Israeli forces attacked ten cities across the occupied West Bank.

Breaking into homes, seizing 2.7 million dollars from businesses, and killing one Palestinian.

Casualties:

  • 21,110+ killed* and at least 55,243 wounded in the Gaza Strip.
  • 313 Palestinians killed in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
  • Israel revises its estimated October 7 death toll down from 1,405 to 1,139.
  • 501 Israeli soldiers killed since October 7, and at least 1,952 injured.

*This figure is the latest confirmed by Gaza’s Ministry of Health as of December 28. Due to breakdowns in communication networks within the Gaza Strip, the Ministry of Health in Gaza has been unable to regularly and accurately update its tolls since mid-November. Some rights groups put the death toll number closer to 30,000 when accounting for those presumed dead.

Key Developments:

  • Israeli forces kill Palestinian in Ramallah during large-scale military invasion on administrative capital of the Palestinian Authority
  • WHO undertakes “high-risk” missions to deliver supplies to hospitals in northern and southern Gaza.
  • WHO: Gaza faces ‘grave peril’.
  • PRCS: At least 10 Gazans killed in bombardment near Al-Amal Hospital, Khan Younis.
  • OCHA: There are tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people in northern Gaza, it has not been ‘cleansed.’
  • Israeli army radio: Israeli forces seize about 2.7 million USD from Palestinian money exchange shops.
  • Turkish President compares Israeli Prime Minister to Hitler.

Gaza Government Media Office:

  • 7,000 people missing.
  • 92 schools and universities destroyed
  • 115 mosques and three churches destroyed
  • 65,000 houses destroyed or no longer safe to live in
  • 23 hospitals and 53 medical centers no longer operational
  • 102 ambulances targeted

“No Words Adequately Capture The Depth Of Human Suffering In Gaza”

As Israel continues their ruthless bombardment campaign against Gaza’s population, its residents are still being denied access to adequate supplies of food, medical supplies, fuel, and other life-saving necessities.

Nobody in Gaza is safe. Israel has continued to target everybody, including children, civil defense workers, ambulances, medical facilities, and journalists.

Following yet another Israeli attack on the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS), this time on their compound in Khan Younis on Tuesday, the International Committee of the Red Cross in Israel and the occupied territories reiterated, “Humanitarian workers, vehicles and buildings must be protected during conflict.”

The next day, Israeli forces attacked another medical complex in Khan Younis.

“Shocking images emerge as dozens of lives are lost and many injured in the relentless shelling by the occupation forces targeting civilians outside PRCS Al-Amal Hospital,” PRCS said on X.

According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, at least 20 people were killed and many others wounded during the Israeli shelling around the hospital.

“This marks the fourth Israeli assault on the hospital within a week,” the humanitarian group added, once again stating that “hospitals should be a safe haven, not a target.”

On Wednesday, the secretary-general of the International Federation of the Red Cross, Jagan Chapagain, said, “No words adequately capture the depth of human suffering in Gaza.”

“In this conflict, civilians, humanitarian workers are paying the highest price with some losing their lives,” Chapagain continued on X, “Rules exist to help preserve humanity in the darkest moments, and they desperately need to be.”

Meanwhile, the Municipality of Gaza has yet to receive any quantities of fuel since the end of last October, despite “promises from UNICEF to deliver fuel [Tuesday].”

“The Gaza municipal service system is still collapsed,” the municipality added in their statement on X.

“Today, I repeat my call on the international community to take urgent steps to alleviate the grave peril facing the population of Gaza and jeopardizing the ability of humanitarian workers to help people with terrible injuries, acute hunger, and severe risk of disease,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO’s director-general said in a statement on Wednesday.

“The safety of our staff and continuity of operations depends on more food arriving in all of Gaza, immediately,” Ghebreyesus continued.

“UN Security Council members must urgently turn their recent resolution – to create pauses in hostilities, and humanitarian corridors – into reality in Gaza,” the head of the World Health Organization added in a post on X.

The Israeli government’s Office for Coordination in the Palestinian Territories (COGAT) says that 115 humanitarian aid trucks were inspected in Nitzana, Israel, on Wednesday before being transferred to the Rafah border crossing for entry into Gaza.

In contrast, before October 7, the Gaza Strip received approximately 500 trucks per day.

“This is not a humanitarian response when we cannot cope with the constant influx of wounded. No matter how many trucks come through Rafah crossing every day, this will never match the needs until there is a ceasefire,” Marie-Aure Perreault Revial from Doctors Without Borders (MSF) told Al Jazeera.

Revial added that even with the resources that do make it into the Gaza Strip, the distribution could come at a deadly cost.

“You absolutely cannot depict this as a humanitarian response when we cannot guarantee the safety of our teams. When our own colleagues, when coming to the hospitals, do not know if they will find their families and their homes in the evening,” she said.

Amidst social media posts claiming that northern Gaza has been ‘cleansed,’ Gemma Connell of the UN Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) told Al Jazeera there are tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people still in the area.

Connel stressed that “there are people in the north of Gaza. There are so many people who are there, and they are surviving on the mere fraction of what it would actually take to keep them alive, so we have to get assistance into north Gaza at scale.”

One of the few journalists still in the north of Gaza, Hossam Shabat, released a statement on X explaining how an Israeli official threatened him at the beginning of Israel’s offensive on the Gaza Strip, and yet he has remained steadfast in documenting Israel’s offensive.

“He told me to delete all my posts on Facebook since October 6 – posts I published about citizens’ support for the resistance and calls for citizens to remain in their homes,” Shabat wrote.

“The officer continued by saying, ‘Get out [of Beit Hanoon], or I will bomb your house.’ I refused to leave, and my house was indeed bombed and completely destroyed. I left after they besieged us in the hospital while they were targeting it.

“Despite all these threats and the bombing of my house, I am still covering what is happening. Death follows us everywhere. Recently when I re-entered Beit Hanoon, the Israeli warplane fired directly at me.”

Former Israeli Officers Praise Hamas’s Resilience

Although Israel has attacked, tortured, starved, displaced, and killed Gaza’s population for almost three months, Hamas has persisted in fighting back against Israel’s ruthless military campaign.

On Wednesday, the Israeli army announced three more deaths, taking the total of Israelis killed since the ground operation began to 165, reported Al Jazeera.

According to Al Jazeera, a lot of injuries and deaths from the Israeli military are coming out of northern areas of Gaza, despite Israeli claims that the army has made several announcements of being in complete “operational control” of different neighborhoods of different parts of northern Gaza where they claim they have eliminated several Hamas battalions.

Michael Milshtein, a former senior intelligence officer for Israel, and Giora Eiland, a retired major general and former head of Israel’s National Security Council, have praised Hamas’s resilience.

“They’ve been saying this for a while, that Hamas is collapsing,” Milshtein told the New York Times, “But it’s just not true. Every day, we’re facing tough battles.”

Eiland said that Hamas has a distinct ability to replace its commanders when they are killed with others who are equally skilled and devoted.

“From a professional point of view, I must give credit to their resilience,” he said. “I cannot see any signs of collapse of the military abilities of Hamas nor in their political strength to continue to lead Gaza.”

Israeli Invasion Across The West Bank

Israeli forces intensified their assault on the occupied West Bank overnight on Wednesday, launching the largest coordinated attack yet on cities across the Palestinian territory since October 7.

At least one person was killed in Ramallah, the administrative headquarters of the Palestinian Authority, and at least 14 people were injured, including one journalist whom Israeli forces opened fire on.

The assault took place across ten cities, including Hebron, Halhul, Nablus, Jenin, Tulkarem, el-Bireh, Jericho, and notably the center of Ramallah, reported Al Jazeera.

Al Jazeera added that Israeli forces also allegedly targeted a number of homes and money exchange and jewelry shops, forcing owners to open the shops, before seizing valuables.

Israel’s Army Radio has reported that Israeli forces have designated five Palestinian money exchange shops as “terrorist organizations,” alleging they have been used to transfer funds to Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

The Army Radio added that Israeli forces raided nine exchange office branches, arrested 20 Palestinians, and seized funds worth some 2.7 million USD.

UN rights chief Volker Turk has described the human rights situation in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, highlighting that the UN Human Rights Office had verified the deaths of 300 Palestinians from October 7 to December 27, including 79 children.

“The use of military tactics and weapons in law enforcement contexts, the use of unnecessary or disproportionate force, and the enforcement of broad, arbitrary and discriminatory movement restrictions that affect Palestinians are extremely troubling,” UN rights chief Volker Turk said in a statement.

Rami Khouri, a distinguished fellow at the American University of Beirut, told Al Jazeera the raids were confirmation that the Israelis are moving to prevent the occupied West Bank from erupting in confrontation against Israel amid the war in Gaza.

“They don’t want the West Bank to emerge now as the next [front],” he said, adding that the raids are trying to end Palestinian resistance in the occupied West Bank.

“Some of these groups who are represented within the coalition have an apocalyptic agenda. In other words, from their points of view, the more escalation, the better,” Mouin Rabbani, a Middle East analyst, said in an interview with Al Jazeera.

“They are even out to provoke the security forces of the Palestinian Authority because, in their view, should they become involved in a conflict, that would then give Israel a pretext to simply eliminate the Palestinian Authority altogether,” Rabbani continued.

Israeli forces also demolished a home housing seven people in the Wadi al-Jawaya area, east of Yatta, located south of the city of Hebron, reported al Jazeera on Wednesday evening.

Since October 7, 14 homes have been demolished, housing approximately 100 Palestinians, and the number of demolition notices issued by Israeli authorities exceeds 4,000, according to the news agency.

Meanwhile, in occupied East Jerusalem, Israeli settlers hung up a severed donkey’s head among the graves in the Bab al-Rahma cemetery close to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

Al Jazeera has reported that Israeli police arrested a man in connection with the incident, saying he has a “mental disorder” and are questioning him and looking for accomplices.

Turkish President Likens Netanyahu To Hitler

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has publicly compared Netanyahu to Hitler, citing Israeli violence and the number of Palestinian deaths, primarily children and women, in Gaza since October 7, which has functioned as “a litmus test” and showed who sought to either defend or exploit “human rights and dignity,” reported al Jazeera.

As Erdogan reiterated his criticism of Western support for Israel, he stated that there is “no difference” between what Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu is doing in Gaza and what Nazi leader Adolf Hitler did decades ago in Europe, Turkey state news agency Anadolu cited him as saying.

“How do you (Netanyahu) differ from Hitler? These (actions) will make us look for Hitler as well. Is there anything Netanyahu does that is less than Hitler? No,” he said.

In response, Netanyahu said on X: “Erdogan, who commits genocide against the Kurds, who holds a world record for imprisoning journalists who oppose his rule, is the last one who can preach morality to us.”

Following Netanyahu’s condemnation, Israel’s war cabinet minister Benny Gantz called the Turkish president’s comments “blatant distortions of reality and a desecration of the Holocaust’s memory.”

“Hamas was the organization that perpetrated a despicable massacre. Removing the threat of Hamas from the citizens of Israel is an existential necessity and an unparalleled moral imperative,” Gantz wrote on X.

Israeli president Isaac Herzog has always weighed in, saying Erdogan’s comments comparing Netanyahu to Hitler “are deeply offensive to every Jew around the world and to the memory of the millions of Jews who perished at the hands of the Nazis.”

In response, the Turkish government’s communications director, Fahrettin Altun, joined the fray and criticized Netanyahu as “the last person to talk about genocide” and “morality.”

“Netanyahu’s desperate attempts to save his political career by killing civilians and expanding the war are doomed to fail,” Altun said on X.

“Our President Erdogan has called it for what it is and he will not stop fighting for justice no matter how many lies Netanyahu tells the world,” he continued.

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