Alexa

Gazans pay price of Israel's strikes against Hamas

Gazans pay price of Israel's strikes against Hamas

Israel's three-day aerial bombardment of the Gaza Strip has killed dozens of civilians, along with Hamas fighters, and has paralyzed life in the territory, already battered by blackouts and shortages during 18 months of border closures.
Israel says it's careful to avoid harm to bystanders and has allowed limited humanitarian supplies into the Hamas-ruled territory, but the nonstop attacks have caused wider power outages, terrified residents and left aid agencies unable to feed thousands of needy.
More than 360 Palestinians were killed by Monday. U.N. humanitarian chief John Holmes said 62 civilians were confirmed killed and the number was likely higher.
Israel is shelling Hamas-run organizations, homes of activists, security posts _ all scattered in densely populated areas. Gazans say most strikes come without prior warning.
"Civilian casualties are almost impossible to avoid and that's particularly true when so many locations are being targeted," Holmes said.
"We don't know where they'll shell next," said medic Mohammed Azayzeh, 27. His family lives just meters from a Hamas institution that residents fear will be bombed, but they aren't budging _ because they don't know if the next place they will flee to will be any safer. On Monday, eight children were killed in three separate airstrikes targeting the homes of senior Hamas activists.
Throughout Gaza, power blackouts of around 16 hours a day continue, because Israel provides only limited amounts of fuel and power into Gaza _ part of its 18-month campaign to pressure Gaza's militant rulers Hamas into halting rocket barrages at Israel from the territory.
In some areas the shelling damaged cables, throwing whole areas into darkness including an upscale Gaza City neighborhood.
Residents avoided heading into markets and most traders kept their shops shuttered, making it unclear if there were shortages of food or goods through the territory.
Israeli planes bombed the tunnels that crisscross Gaza's border with Egypt on Sunday, used to haul in goods like cows, chocolate, computers and fuel, scarce because of Israel's blockade of the territory. Militants also used the tunnels to smuggle in guns.
Residents lined up outside a shop selling flour in the central Gaza town of Deir al-Balah on Monday, after a tip-off that Israel allowed in more supplies. Most residents bake their own bread, and flour was short for weeks before the bombardment.
The U.N. halted food distribution to 800,000 Gazans, more than half the territory's population, on Dec. 18 because a tightened closure prevented many goods from reaching the territory. Since the airstrikes began, Israel allowed in almost 100 trucks laden with humanitarian aid, but the U.N. says it's not enough to resume distribution.
Dust from bombed-out buildings lingers in Gaza's streets, which are mostly empty save for people fleeing their homes and motorists driving the wounded and killed to hospitals. In areas recently shelled, the smell of gunpowder and blood hangs heavily in the air.
Hospitals are the only hives of activity.
The World Health Organization reported early Sunday that since the airstrikes began, around 900 people were sent to Gaza hospitals, over 100 people remained in a critical condition.
Even before the strikes, Gaza's hospitals were operating with precariously low levels of drugs and shoddy equipment.
The WHO said it was facilitating the entry of medical gases for operation rooms, surgical kits and other medical supplies, warning the situation was serious, but appeared under control.
Medics speaking to The Associated Press described 18-hour days, changing out of blood-spattered uniforms without time to shower, sleeping in cots and not seeing their children.
The tunnel bombings have prompted hundreds to leave their homes in the border area, residents said.
Majda Abu Taha, 29, fled her home in the Brazil refugee camp close to Gaza's border with Egypt on Sunday afternoon, a full day after Israel shelled nearby tunnels. She took her three children and a dozen members of her extended family to her sister's, in Rafah about a half mile from the border.
Abu Taha wavered for a day, watching her neighbors leave, carrying warm blankets in plastic bags, their children in bundled layers of clothing. Her sister's house was already full of relatives, and Abu Taha wasn't sure she could take on even more. But plane-dropped leaflets signed by Israel's army warning that the tunnels would be bombed again forced her decision.
Abu Taha said she did not have a tunnel opening in her home _ unlike many residents in the area. But she feared her cinderblock home would collapse upon her family. She fled to her sister's house, where refugees lined the floor with mattresses to accommodate the dozens of people sleeping there.
"When the bombings happened (on Sunday) it was like a giant grabbed my house and shook it. If they shell any closer, we'll all die," Abu Taha said.