Residents of Gaza are evacuating south at the urging of Israeli forces
Residents of north Gaza are evacuating south at the urging of Israeli forces, potentially triggering a humanitarian crisis.
More than 600,000 Palestinians have evacuated northern Gaza, Israeli authorities notified 155 families that their loved ones were being held by Hamas, and Sen. Lindsey Graham issued a stern warning to Iran on Sunday as the war intensified in its ninth day.
Israel has ordered more than 1 million Palestinians to evacuate northern Gaza ahead of an impending ground invasion, creating a humanitarian crisis that has brought protests from the U.N. and around the world. Israel Defense Forces spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said thousands had already left despite efforts by Hamas to slow the evacuation.
The IDF said it would carry out no operations along the primary road south from northern Gaza from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday to help expedite completion of the evacuation.
“During this window, please take the opportunity to move southward from northern Gaza,” the IDF said in social media posts. “Be assured, Hamas leaders have already ensured their safety and that of their families.”
Hagari told the families of hostages the military is doing “everything” possible to free them.
“To the families of the hostages, I know that for you every second is an eternity, we will do everything to bring your loved ones home,” Hagari said in a translation by the Times of Israel.
∎ Ambassador David Satterfield was appointed Special Envoy for Middle East Humanitarian Issues, where he will focus on ensuring “life-saving assistance can reach vulnerable people throughout the Middle East,” the State Department announced Sunday.
∎ Secretary of State Antony Blinken will return to Israel on Monday after completing a six-nation sweep across the region aimed at preventing the war from spreading, the State Department announced.
∎ Shifa hospital in Gaza City, where thousands have sought safety, said it would bury 100 bodies in a mass grave after its morgue overflowed. “An unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe is unfolding under our eyes,” said Philippe Lazzarini, the head of the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees.
∎ The United Nations said about 1 million Gaza residents have been displaced in just a week, about half of them finding refuge in U.N. schools and other facilities where water supplies are diminishing.
∎ Pope Francis renewed his appeal for peace, restraint and release of the hostages: “I strongly demand that children, the elderly, women, and all civilians are not victims of the conflict.”
See how US Navy ships in the Mediterranean are positioned to support Israel
A day after Iran’s foreign minister warned Israel that its attacks on Gaza could fuel expansion of the war across the Middle East, Graham warned Iran that it could become a U.S. military target if it attempts to expand the war. Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian had said if Lebanon-based militant Hezbollah, funded by Iran, joins the battle it would “cause a huge earthquake” in Israel.
“While a great number of Palestinians are being killed by the Zionist regime on a daily basis, the US administration calls on others to show self-restraint,” Amirabdollahian said.
Graham, speaking Sunday on “Meet the Press,” applauded President Joe Biden for his strong support of Israel and said the Israeli military was trying to destroy Hamas while protecting as many Palestinians as possible.
“Here’s my message,” Graham said. “If Hezbollah, which is a proxy of Iran, launches a massive attack on Israel, I would … introduce a resolution in the United States Senate to allow military action by the United States in conjunction with Israel to knock Iran out of the oil business. Iran, if you escalate this war, we’re coming for you.”
The U.S. and British governments are pushing for the Rafah crossing into Egypt to be opened so their citizens can escape the war and humanitarian aid can come into Gaza, the BBC reported Sunday.
The crossing in southern Gaza is controlled by Egypt, Israel and Hamas, and British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly told the BBC he was working with the first two and other influential entities in the region to facilitate passage.
American and British nationals in Gaza are being told to head south and be on the alert for an announcement of the crossing opening, which may come suddenly and be in effect for a limited time.
Israeli fighter jets were striking Hezbollah military infrastructure in Lebanon on Sunday, the IDF said. Hezbollah fired rockets into Israel, and Israel returned the fire, the IDF said.
Hezbollah spokeswoman Rana Sahili said the fighting doesn’t indicate Hezbollah has decided to fully enter the war. She described the clashes as “only skirmishes” representing a “warning” if Israel does not cease its attack on the civilian population in Gaza.
The IDF said it killed Billal Al Kedra, who led the Hamas commando forces responsible for the Kibbutz Nirim massacre in the early hours of the Oct. 7 invasion. More than 100 men, women and children were slaughtered and dozens of homes destroyed in the kibbutz, less than a mile from the Gaza border, Israeli authorities say.
“IDF fighter jets operated in Gaza and neutralized Billal Al Kedra,” the IDF said in a statement that included video of the strike. “Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorist operatives were also neutralized.”
The World Heath Organization pleaded with Israel on Sunday to immediately reverse evacuation orders for hospitals in northern Gaza, saying the deadlines are impossible to meet and risk additional loss of life.
Fuel is expected to run out at Nasser Hospital in Gaza by Monday, hospital critical care consultant Dr. Mohammed Qandeel said. That could mean death for some seriously wounded Gazans who have taken refuge there, Qandeel said. Basic supplies are also scarce.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned that attacks on health care facilities are already causing additional deaths and injuries. He added that health workers were “staying by their patients’ sides.” WHO called on Israel to protect health facilities, health workers, patients and civilians.
“The health situation in north Gaza is dire,” Tedros wrote on social media. “Evacuation orders by Israel to hospitals are practically impossible to implement and are a death sentence for the sick and injured.”
A bipartisan U.S. congressional delegation was in Tel Aviv on Sunday when they were hustled into a shelter to wait out a rocket attack, Sen Chuck Schumer, D-New York, said.
“It shows you what Israelis have to go through,” Schumer, who’s Jewish, said on social media. “We must provide Israel with the support required to defend itself.”
Other senators in the delegation include Republicans Mitt Romney of Utah and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana along with Democrats Mark Kelly of Arizona and Jacky Rosen of Nevada. Schumer described the delegation’s meetings with Israeli leaders as productive and pledged to lead the Senate effort to provide Israel with the support required to defend itself from this “monstrous attack” from Hamas.
Israel was restoring water service to southern Gaza on Sunday after initially cutting off water, food and fuel supplies following Hamas’ attack on Israel, U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan said. Aid workers, however, said they had yet to see water flowing out of taps.
The U.S. is working with Israel, Egypt, Jordan and the U.N. to ensure that “innocent Palestinians get access to those basic necessities,” Sullivan said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Sullivan said the Biden administration still does not have precise information on the number of Americans being held hostage by Hamas or where they are being held. That’s one reason the U.S has not sent Navy SEALs or other special forces to try to recover them, he said.
− Ken Tran
The Palestinian death toll climbed to 2,670, the Gaza Health Ministry said Sunday, making this the deadliest of five Gaza wars for Palestinians. Another 9,600 have been wounded.
More than 1,400 Israelis have been killed in the initial assault by Hamas and subsequent rocket attacks from Gaza, the IDF said. The overwhelming majority of all those killed in the war were civilians. For Israel, this is the deadliest war since the 1973 conflict with Egypt and Syria.
The State Department confirmed the deaths of 30 U.S. citizens and said that 13 Americans are missing and feared killed or taken hostage.
“We extend our deepest condolences to the victims and to the families of all those affected,” the State Department said Sunday. “The U.S. government is working around the clock to determine their whereabouts and is working with the Israeli government on every aspect of the hostage crisis, including sharing intelligence and deploying experts from across the United States government to advise the Israeli government on hostage recovery efforts.”
Israel said at least 155 people were captured by Hamas and taken into Gaza, an undetermined number of them Americans.
Looking from afar: People with loved ones in Israel, Gaza with constant trauma
People with ties to the region are dealing with traumatic stress even though they may be thousands of miles from the conflict. The war between Israel and Hamas has inflicted an immediate crisis far beyond the Middle East, touching loved ones’ lives abroad, and placing Americans living far from kibbutzim and refugee camps in a state of constant emergency. Mental health experts warn that the violent, shocking images and news about the conflict exacerbate traumatic stress. The barrage of information and images can have profound effects on health and well-being.
“What we are seeing right now is needless, preventable suffering,” said Dr. Alishia Moreland-Capuia, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard and the founder and director of the Institute for Trauma-Informed Systems Change at McLean Hospital, near Boston. Read more here.
− Eduardo Cuevas
Contributing: The Associated Press
Abhinav Thawait is a globe-trotting correspondent with a passion for international affairs. With a background in international relations, he offers a global perspective on the most pressing issues around the world. Abhinav’s curiosity takes his to the far corners of the earth, where he seeks to share untold stories and diverse viewpoints.