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A Palestinian man brings one of the wounded to Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza after a second strike on the Jabalia refugee camp. Alamy Stock Photo

Israeli army says Gaza City completely encircled as Palestinian death toll passes 9,000

Yesterday, hundreds of foreign passport holders, and wounded Palestinians, were allowed to escape to Egypt.

LAST UPDATE | 2 Nov 2023

ISRAEL’S ARMY HAS said it has encircled Gaza City following days of expanding ground operations and heavy bombardment in the besieged territory.

“Israeli soldiers have completed the encirclement of the city of Gaza, the centre of the Hamas terror organisation,” military spokesman Daniel Hagari told journalists.

Shortly afterwards, Hamas’s military wing, the Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades, said that Gaza would be a “curse” for Israel and that its invading soldiers would go home “in black bags”.

The Gaza conflict raged for a 27th day today after the 7 October attacks when Hamas militants stormed the border, killing 1,400 people and kidnapping more than 240 others, according to Israeli officials.

Since then, Israel has relentlessly bombarded the Palestinian territory and sent in ground troops, with the health ministry in Gaza saying 9,061 people have been killed, including 3,760 children.

Rafah crossing

Hundreds more foreigners and dual nationals fled war-torn Gaza for Egypt today as Israeli forces bombarded and fought ground battles in the besieged Palestinian territory, where thousands have died.

Egypt said it eventually plans to help evacuate 7,000 foreigners through the Rafah crossing and a spokesman for the Palestinian side of the border post said about 100 had been able to leave today.

A total of 400 foreign passport holders as well as 60 severely wounded Palestinians in ambulances were due to cross by the end of the second day of departures, Wael Abu Mohsen said, and Egyptian officials later reported the first arrivals.

A list of those approved to travel today shows hundreds of US citizens and 50 Belgians along with smaller numbers from various European, Arab, Asian and African countries.

Yesterday, Tánaiste and Foreign Affairs Minister Micheál Martin said the government had not been notified of any Irish passport holders leaving Gaza through the Rafah crossing into Egypt.

Irish citizens will not be included in today’s group of dual nationals leaving Gaza for Egypt today either. 

There are around 40 Irish passport holders in Gaza but the Department of Foreign Affairs has not been notified of any of these persons being included in today’s crossing.

Minister for Trade Promotion Dara Calleary today said the Department of Foreign Affairs is “working incredibly hard” to get Irish passport-holders out of Gaza.

He said the department is in regular contact with each of the people on the list of Irish passport holders they are aware of in the region.

Speaking to RTÉ radio, Calleary said: “I have to reiterate if there’s anybody – or anybody that has connections – in Gaza that haven’t registered with the Department of Foreign Affairs, please register.”

He added: “They’re throwing everything at it. It is a very complex situation. It is only today that people are beginning to get out and I think everything is being done to ensure that we get Irish passport holders out.”

palestinians-loot-a-truck-with-humanitarian-aid-near-the-rafah-border-crossing-in-the-gaza-strip-on-thursday-nov-2-2023-ap-photohatem-ali Palestinians receive humanitarian aid near the Rafah border crossing in the Gaza Strip Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Earlier today, a Sinn Féin delegation led by party leader Mary Lou McDonald and including deputy leader Michelle O’Neill and Foreign Affairs spokesperson Matt Carthy met with ambassadors and diplomatic representatives from Palestine, Egypt, Alergia, Morocco, the UAE, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. 

“The ambassadors briefed us on the deteriorating situation in Gaza where the Israeli bombardment is causing a humanitarian crisis with almost 10,000 Palestinians killed, many of whom are children, the displacement of 1.4 million people and the cutting off of humanitarian aid,” McDonald said following the meeting. 

“Israel’s actions are not defence. They amount to collective punishment and are a breach of international law,” she said. 

McDonald said that the international community and the EU “are failing to provide the leadership required”.

“They need to be unequivocal in calling for an immediate ceasefire, be unequivocal and consistent in the application of international law and be unequivocal in holding Israel to account for its continuous breaching of international law,” she said. 

“And ultimately there must be dialogue to secure a just and lasting peace including a viable State of Palestine.”

Yesterday and today’s evacuations mark a tiny proportion of the 2.4 million people trapped in Gaza under weeks bombardment since Hamas launched their bloody cross-border attack into Israel on 7 October.

Ground battles flared again overnight in northern Gaza as Israeli troops have sought to destroy Hamas, the Islamist movement that controls the territory.

Hamas’ assault on 7 October, which Israel says claimed 1,400 lives, was the bloodiest in the country’s 75-year-history.

Strike near school

The Israeli army is also seeking to free around 240 hostages, both civilians and troops, captured by Hamas during the attacks.

Seperately, it’s also been reported by Iran’s Islamic Republican News Agency that an Irish citizen is being held hostage in Gaza by Hamas.

These unconfirmed reports have not been backed by the Department of Foreign Affairs, with Calleary telling RTÉ that he “does not have precise information” on this and that he wasn’t able to confirm these reports.

Today, the Israeli military said it had killed dozens of enemy fighters.

“IDF fighters continue to advance in the Gaza City area and conduct face-to-face battles with Hamas terrorists and to deepen the fighting,” military spokesman Daniel Hagari told journalists.

“At the end of a battle that lasted several hours and included ground fighting and fire support from aircraft and a missile ship, many terrorists were killed.”

Some 332 soldiers have already died in the 7 October attacks and in the Israeli offensive the Hamas assault triggered.

Now gruelling urban warfare lies ahead deeper inside Gaza, where Hamas is fighting from a tunnel network spanning hundreds of kilometres.

palestinians-look-for-survivors-in-the-rubble-of-a-destroyed-building-following-an-israeli-airstrike-in-bureij-refugee-camp-gaza-strip-thursday-nov-2-2023-ap-photohassan-eslaiah Palestinians look for survivors in the rubble of a destroyed building following an Israeli airstrike in Bureij refugee camp Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Global concern has risen sharply over Israel’s response, in which the army says it has struck more than 12,000 targets so far.

Special concern has focused on repeated heavy strikes on Gaza’s largest refugee camp – densely populated Jabalia, north of Gaza City – where explosions brought down residential buildings.

Gaza’s Hamas-ruled government said 195 were killed in two days of Israeli strikes on Jabalia, with hundreds more missing and wounded, figures AFP could not independently verify.

Hamas said seven of the estimated 242 hostages it is holding, died in Tuesday’s bombings, a claim that was also impossible to verify.

Major strikes also hit Gaza’s Bureij refugee camp and an area near a UN-run school, where the health ministry said 27 had died.

Outside the Al-Quds hospital in Gaza City, displaced residents seeking shelter from Israeli strikes told AFP that civilians would not withstand the barrage much longer.

“This is not a life. We need a safe place for our kids,” said 50-year-old Hiyam Shamlakh. “Everybody is terrified, children, women and the elderly.”

Talal Shamlakh, 65, said: “There have been missiles since 7:00am around the hospital and we couldn’t sleep while children are screaming.”

Another Gazan, Mahmoud Abu Jarad, said civilians would not be able to tolerate another week of strikes. “We demand a ceasefire. This is the most important thing,” the 30-year-old said.

‘Death every day’

Israel has sought to justify the first Jabalia attack by saying it had targeted a senior Hamas commander in a tunnel complex below the camp.

AFP has witnessed rescuers desperately clawing through the rubble and twisted metal in frantic attempts to bring out survivors and bodies.

Emergency responders say “whole families” have died.

The wounded were rushed away by cart, motorcycle and ambulance as anguished wails and blaring sirens filled the dusty air.

But Gaza’s hospitals have been overwhelmed and run short of medical supplies and even electricity.

jabalia-palestinian-territories-01st-nov-2023-palestinians-inspect-destroyed-buildings-following-an-israeli-airstrike-in-the-jabalia-refugee-camp-in-the-gaza-strip-credit-fadi-wael-alwhididpaa Palestinians inspect destroyed buildings following an Israeli airstrike in the Jabalia refugee camp in the Gaza Strip Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Tensions and violence have also spread in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where more than 130 Palestinians have died since 7 October according to the Palestinian health ministry.

Three Palestinians were killed today by Israeli fire in the West Bank, the ministry said, and an Israeli was killed in a Palestinian shooting attack, according to first responders.


In embattled Gaza, more than 20,000 people have been wounded, according to aid group Doctors Without Borders.

Israel has argued it is trying to avoid civilian casualties and has told residents to evacuate northern Gaza. It also says Hamas has blocked many civilians from leaving to use them as “human shields”.

US backing

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is leaving on another trip to the Middle East as he renews support for Israel but also reportedly seeks to encourage the US ally to limit the civilian deaths that have outraged much of the world.

Blinken will spend the day tomorrow in Israel – his fourth visit since the 7 October  Hamas assault, including a trip to accompany President Joe Biden – and also head to Jordan and potentially other stops before a previously scheduled trip to Asia.

The United States is the foremost supporter of Israel and has promised to ramp up military assistance as Israel wages a retaliatory campaign against Hamas, even as a rising number of US allies accuse it of a disproportionate response.

Yesterday Biden said he supported a humanitarian “pause” in the Gaza conflict, but the United States remains opposed to calls for a ceasefire, saying that Hamas has no intention of holding fire.

Blinken is expected to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had rocky relations with Biden before the war over his hard-right policies.

While publicly supporting Israel, the Biden administration has been openly critical of the lack of action in the West Bank against Israeli settlers who have attacked Palestinians.

US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller called the violence “incredibly destabilising.”

“We have sent a very clear message to them that it’s unacceptable, it needs to stop and those responsible for it need to be held accountable,” Miller said yesterday of US contact with the Israeli government.

The talks in Israel are also expected to start discussions on what comes next after the war.

Testifying before Congress earlier this week, Blinken said that the Palestinian Authority — which Netanyahu’s hard-right government has sought to degrade – should eventually take over in the Gaza Strip after the elimination of Hamas.

“Whether you can get there in one step is a big question that we have to look at. And if you can’t, then there are other temporary arrangements that may involve a number of other countries in the region,” he said.

“It may involve international agencies that would help provide for both security and governance.”

With reporting by Diarmuid Pepper, David Mac Redmond, © AFP 2023 and Press Association