Israel over the weekend announced it had entered a “second stage” of its war against militant group Hamas and on Sunday said its ground operation in Gaza would intensify, following weeks of aerial strikes on the Hamas-controlled territory.
The country was prepared for a “long and difficult” war, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Saturday, as it seeks to root out and “destroy” Hamas after its October 7 attack on Israel, which killed more than 1,400 people, mostly civilians.
The expanded operations sparked new warnings from leaders about the risk of broader regional conflict, as well as heightened calls from the United Nations for a humanitarian ceasefire to deliver desperately needed aid into Gaza.
Here’s the latest:
‘Impossible’ hospital evacuation
Israeli airstrikes have “caused extensive damage to hospital departments and exposed residents and patients to suffocation” at the Al-Quds Hospital, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society said Sunday.
The medical organization accused Israel of “deliberately” launching airstrikes “directly next to” the facility in order to force an evacuation of the hospital, the second-largest in Gaza City.
The facility is treating hundreds of patients, while some 12,000 internally displaced civilians are also sheltering there, the agency said.
The organization said it received new warnings on Sunday from Israel to immediately evacuate the hospital ahead of possible bombardment, which the World Health Organization has said would be “impossible” to do without endangering patients’ lives.
The hospital is located north of Wadi Gaza, the line Israel has urged people in Gaza to flee south of as it continues to strike what it says are Hamas targets in the north.
‘More desperate by the hour’
Shortages of water, food and fuel continue to drive desperation in the territory, which suffered a communications blackout from Friday evening into Sunday morning.
Services began to gradually be restored Sunday, after what a senior US official said was American pressure on Israel.
The United Nations warned Sunday there are signs “civil order is starting to break down” in Gaza, reporting that thousands of desperate Palestinians are taking basic items like flour and hygiene supplies from warehouses.
At a news conference, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the situation in Gaza was “growing more desperate by the hour,” and reiterated his calls for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and the “delivery of sustained humanitarian relief.”
UN officials earlier said the levels of aid coming through were not nearly enough to meet needs in Gaza.
US President Joe Biden spoke with Netanyahu and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi Sunday about the need for the continued flow of aid into Gaza and stressed the importance of protecting civilian lives.
Since October 7, the death toll in Gaza has risen to 7,960, the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Ramallah announced on Sunday, drawing the data from sources in the Hamas-controlled enclave.
Relief group Save the Children said the 3,000 children reported killed in Gaza over the past three weeks has surpassed the annual number of children killed in armed conflict globally in each of the past four years.
The widespread destruction and spiraling death toll has sparked huge anger and protests in the Middle East and beyond.
In the latest incident, an angry crowd in Russia’s mostly Muslim region of Dagestan stormed an airport where a flight from Israel arrived on Sunday, forcing authorities to close the facility and divert flights.
Expanded ground operations
The video, taken Saturday and published by an Israeli media outlet, is one of the first glimpses into where Israeli ground forces have been since expanding ground operations in Gaza overnight Friday.
On Sunday, the IDF said it exchanged fire with Hamas and struck military structures, “some of which contained Hamas terrorists.”
IDF tanks and armored personnel vehicles were also seen approaching the border while helicopters, drones and fighter jets flew overhead.
The Israeli government has been under public pressure to ensure the safety of what Israel has said are 239 known hostages in Gaza, with senior officials portraying the intensifying campaign as part of a strategy to secure their release.
UN vote, regional tensions
Iran, which has long backed Hamas, issued new threats over the weekend that the current conflict risked widening.
Israel has “crossed the red lines” in Gaza, which “may force everyone to take action,” Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi said Sunday. US security adviser Jake Sullivan also said there was an “elevated risk” of a spillover conflict in the Middle East.
Egypt and Saudi Arabia over the weekend each issued warnings of the potential for destabilization of regional security following Israel’s expanded operations.
Meanwhile, calls have continued for an humanitarian pause.
That follows a resolution passed by an overwhelming majority of UN member states Friday calling for a “sustained humanitarian truce.”
Earlier this month, the United States vetoed a draft resolution at the UNSC which called for a humanitarian pause but did not condemn Hamas for its terror attack.