Gaza bombardment continues into 7th day as Israel ground offensive looms

Explosions flared around Gaza in the early hours of Friday morning, as Israeli air strikes on the Palestinian enclave continued into its seventh day, killing more than 1,500 people including hundreds of children, local health authorities say.

Israel has been bombarding Gaza in retaliation for a Hamas rampage in southern Israeli towns that killed at least 1,300 people this week.

The bombardment is the most intense Israel has ever directed at Gaza, which is only 40km long and home to 2.3 million people living in cramped cities and refugee camps with few designated shelters and nowhere else to run.

The United Nations said Israel’s military informed it late on Thursday that 1.1 million Palestinians in Gaza should relocate to the enclave’s south within the next 24 hours, in what Palestinians fear could be a precursor to a planned Israeli ground offensive.

Meanwhile, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) also warned on Thursday that crucial supplies were running dangerously low in the Gaza Strip after Israel imposed a total blockade on the territory following deadly Hamas attacks.

“It’s a dire situation in the Gaza Strip that we’re seeing evolve with food and water being in limited supply and quickly running out,” said Brian Lander, the deputy head of emergencies at WFP, which is based in Rome.

Israel announced a total siege on Gaza on Monday, blocking the entry of food, fuel, and water into the coastal territory and shuttering all crossing points.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (IRCRC) said on Thursday that fuel for hospital generators in Gaza would run out shortly, adding that its stocks of aid and medicine within Gaza were stranded for want of safe passage.

“The people that are seeking shelter and striving to survive in this environment are only going to get into worse and worse situations as time goes on,” Lander said.

He urged both Israel and Egypt to create secure corridors for the WFP to be able to bring supplies into Gaza and to make sure U.N. staff could work safely in the area.

The U.N. agency responsible for Palestinian refugees (UNWRA) has said 11 of its staff have been killed in the conflict so far. “(It) is a terrible tragedy and we really extend our condolences to their families,” Lander said.

In normal times, the U.N. agency provides direct food assistance to some 350,000 Palestinians monthly, while also offering aid to nearly 1 million people in cooperation with other humanitarian partners via cash transfers.

In a 2023 report, U.N. agencies estimated that 58 percent of Gaza Strip residents required humanitarian assistance with 29 percent of Gazan households living in extreme or catastrophic conditions compared with 10 percent in 2022