After three weeks of siege, the first Palestinians, dozens of dual passport holders and seriously injured, were allowed to leave Gaza, where Israeli airstrikes pounded a refugee camp for the second day. Despite the bombings driving tens of thousands from their homes and running low on food, water, and fuel, no one has been allowed to leave the embattled enclave, except for four hostages released by Hamas.
Israeli forces rescued another captive earlier this week, and a limited agreement appeared to have been reached on Wednesday. Al-Jazeera television aired footage of devastation in the Jabaliya refugee camp near Gaza City and of several wounded people, including children, being brought to a nearby hospital. The toll from Tuesday’s strikes was also unknown, but Israel said those strikes killed dozens of militants, including a senior Hamas commander involved in the militants’ bloody Oct. 7 rampage that ignited the war. Jordan recalled its ambassador from Israel and told Israel’s ambassador to remain out of the country.
Israeli ground forces are pushing towards the outskirts of Gaza City, a Palestinian enclave home to 2.3 million people, amid a severe humanitarian crisis. Over half of the population has fled their homes, and supplies of food, medicine, water, and fuel are running low. Hospitals in Gaza are facing a blackout due to Israel’s fuel import ban, and strikes in Jabaliya highlight potential casualties as Israeli troops advance towards the city’s residential areas.
Israeli officials say Hamas’ military infrastructure, including hundreds of kilometers of underground tunnels, is concentrated in the city, which was home to around 650,000 people before the war. As of Wednesday afternoon, 110 foreign passport holders were allowed to exit Gaza, and six buses carrying 335 foreign passport holders left Gaza through the Rafah crossing into Egypt. Egypt has said it will not accept an influx of Palestinian refugees due to fears Israel will not allow them to return to Gaza after the war.
Egypt has announced that over 80 Palestinians, out of thousands wounded in the war, will be brought in for treatment. However, 10 of the patients died before they could be evacuated to Egypt. The criteria for medical evacuation in Gaza remain unclear, but internet and mobile phone services are gradually being restored after a disruption lasting several hours. NetBlocks.org attributes the disruptions to Israeli measures, making it difficult for civilians to seek safety.
The Palestinian Health Ministry said that the Turkish-Palestinian Hospital, Gaza’s only facility offering specialized treatment for cancer patients, was forced to shut down because of lack of fuel, leaving 70 cancer patients in a critical situation. The Palestinian-Israeli conflict has resulted in over 8,700 deaths, mainly women and minors, and over 22,000 injuries, with Israeli civilians losing 1,400 lives and Palestinian militants abducting 240 during their incursion.
Israel has been evacuating Palestinians from Gaza, with an estimated 800,000 fleeing from the city and northern areas following Israeli orders. Over 200 trucks carrying food and medicine have been allowed to enter from Egypt, but aid workers argue it’s not enough. Israel has pledged to crush Hamas’ ability to govern Gaza or threaten it, and does not plan to reoccupy the territory. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken suggested that an effective and revitalized Palestinian Authority should have governance and security responsibility for Gaza.
The Palestinian Authority’s forces were driven out of Gaza in 2007, leaving it with limited control over parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Palestinian support for President Mahmoud Abbas has dropped since then, with many Palestinians dismissing the PA as little more than Israel’s police force.
The war threatens to ignite more fighting on other fronts, with Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group trading fire daily along the border and striking targets in Syria linked to Iran. Israeli forces intercepted a threat south of the southernmost city of Eilat, shooting down a drone near Eilat and intercepting a missile over the Red Sea. Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen claim the attacks.