It has been 18 days since the Palestinian militant group Hamas’s surprise attack on Israel and this country’s retaliatory campaign in Gaza continues.
Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN), now says he is deeply concerned about the “clear violations of international humanitarian law” he is witnessing in Gaza and says people in the region are experiencing “epic suffering”.
“The relentless bombardment of Gaza by Israeli forces, the level of civilian deaths and the large-scale destruction of neighborhoods continues to increase and is deeply worrying,” Guterres told the UN Security Council in New York.
Israel’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Eli Cohen, reacted angrily to this and called to mind the graphic manner in which Israeli civilians were murdered by Hamas on October 7.
“Mr. Secretary General, what world do you live in,” Cohen wanted to know.
According to relief agencies on the ground, hospitals in Gaza are overwhelmed at this stage. There is also no fuel to keep generators running and shelters are failing under the burden of an estimated 1.4 million displaced people; more than half of the population in Gaza.
A UN agency warned on Wednesday that dwindling fuel supplies will soon leave the aid agency with no other choice than to stop its relief efforts in Gaza.
“If we do not get fuel urgently, we will be forced to suspend our operations in the Gaza Strip,” said the UN agency, which provides aid to 600,000 displaced people in Gaza.
The Palestinian Red Crescent said on Tuesday it had received the fourth shipment of humanitarian aid, consisting of eight trucks.
The aids include medicine, food and water, but not fuel. Israel fears that fuel could end up in Hamas’ hands.
Gaza’s health department, which is run by Hamas, says 5,791 people have died in the war so far. Many of them are children.
AFP could not independently verify these figures.
‘I’ve been through hell’ – hostage
RNews earlier reported that 222 people were taken hostage during Hamas’s surprise attack. Four of the hostages have been released in the past few days, including 85-year-old Yocheved Lifshitz from Israel.
On Tuesday, shortly after her release, Lifshitz said at a media conference that she “has been through hell”.
Lifshitz was held prisoner for two weeks with other hostages in underground tunnels in Gaza, reports BBC.
Lifshitz and her husband were captured on October 7 at their home on the Nir Oz kibbutz. Lifshitz was loaded onto a motorcycle. She says she was beaten with sticks during the trip to Gaza, and suffered bruises and breathing problems in the process.
Lifschitz says she was one of 25 hostages who were taken into the tunnels and after several hours five people from her kibbutz were taken to a separate room. There they each had a guard and access to a paramedic and doctor.
According to Lifschitz, they were kept in clean conditions with mattresses on the floor for them to sleep on. Another hostage who was seriously injured in a motorcycle accident on the way to Gaza was treated by a doctor for his injuries.
“They made sure that we didn’t get sick and we had a doctor with us every two or three days.”
According to Lifschitz, the hostages had access to medicine. There were also women who knew about “women’s hygiene”.
The hostages ate the same food – pita bread with cheese and cucumber – as the Hamas guards.
In footage of Lifschitz’s release, she can be seen shaking hands with one of the Hamas guards. When asked about this action, Lifschitz replied that Hamas’s guards treated her well and that the remaining hostages are in good condition.
Lifschitz’s daughter, Sharone Lifschitz, said her mother’s gesture did not surprise her. “The way she walked away and then came back and said thank you was pretty amazing to me. That’s how she is,” Sharone told the BBC.