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Palestinians look for survivers in buildings destroyed in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip Hatem Ali/AP/PA Images
israel-hamas war

New aid convoy enters Gaza amid concerns region could spiral 'out of control'

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Lebanon’s Hezbollah that if it got involved, it would be “the mistake of its life”.

LAST UPDATE | Oct 22nd 2023, 7:45 PM

A NEW CONVOY of 17 aid trucks entered war-torn Gaza today as Israel stepped up strikes on the Palestinian enclave which is suffering a “catastrophic” humanitarian situation in the war sparked by Hamas’s bloody attack.

With fears of a wider conflagration mounting, Iran said the region could spiral “out of control” and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Lebanon’s Hezbollah that if it got involved, it would be “the mistake of its life”.

Hamas militants stormed into Israel from the Gaza Strip on 7 October and killed at least 1,400 people, mostly civilians who were shot, mutilated or burnt to death on the first day of the raid, according to Israeli officials.

It was the worst attack on civilians in Israel’s history and coincided with the end of the religious holiday of Sukkot.

Israel’s retaliatory bombing campaign has killed more than 4,600 Palestinians, mainly civilians, according to the health ministry in Gaza.

More than 40% of Gaza’s housing has been damaged or destroyed, according to the UN citing local authorities, and Israel has halted food, water, fuel and electricity supplies.

Sunday’s delivery of 17 trucks of aid through Gaza’s Rafah crossing with Egypt was the second such operation in two days, with 20 lorries having arrived on Saturday following negotiations and US pressure.

Separately, an AFP journalist in Gaza saw six trucks leaving the Rafah terminal after filling up from dwindling fuel stocks held at the crossing.

The United Nations estimates that about 100 trucks per day are required to meet the needs of Gaza’s 2.4 million residents given the “catastrophic” humanitarian situation.

The head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees warned fuel supplies would run out in three days.

“Without fuel, there will be no humanitarian assistance,” Philippe Lazzarini said.

Israeli attacks intensify

Israel has massed tens of thousands of troops around the enclave for an anticipated ground invasion.

Israel increased its attacks overnight and killed “dozens of terrorists” in and around Gaza City, including the deputy commander of the Hamas rocket network, military spokesman Daniel Hagari said today.

Hamas said overnight raids on the Gaza Strip killed at least 80 people and destroyed more than 30 homes.

In central Gaza’s Deir al-Balah, an AFP journalist saw the bodies of children on the bloodied floor of a morgue. A man clutched his dead toddler and people wept as they identified the bodies of relatives.

Om Ahmad Abu Sanjar was sleeping in her Rafah home when she “woke up to the glass shattering on us and bricks falling”. “We got out miraculously,” she told AFP.

The scale of the bombing has left basic systems unable to function, with the UN saying dozens of unidentified bodies were buried in a mass grave in Gaza City because cold storage had run out.

The Israeli Defence Forces this evening confirmed that one of its tanks “accidentally fired and hit an Egyptian post adjacent to the border in the area of Kerem Shalom”.

“The incident is being investigated and the details are under review. The IDF expresses sorrow regarding the incident,” a post on X, formerly Twitter, noted.

Egypt’s military spokesman said an unspecified number of border guards sustained “minor injuries” from “fragments of a shell accidentally fired from an Israeli tank”.

The Egyptian army said Israel had “immediately expressed its regret over the unintentional incident and an investigation is underway”.

Regional tensions rise

Israel has warned more than one million residents in northern Gaza to move south for their safety, and the UN says more than half of the territory’s population is now internally displaced.

Hundreds of thousands of civilians are believed to remain in and around Gaza City in the north, unwilling or unable to leave.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian today said that if Washington and Israel “do not immediately stop the crime against humanity and genocide in Gaza, anything is possible at any moment and the region will go out of control”.

Screenshot 2023-10-22 17.18.23 A Palestinian journalist comforts his niece who was wounded in an Israeli strike on her family home in Nuseirat refugee camp AP / PA Images AP / PA Images / PA Images

Fresh fire was also exchanged across Israel’s border with Lebanon, which the Israeli military warned could be dragged into the war by Hamas ally Hezbollah.

On a visit to troops near the border, Netanyahu said Hezbollah would make “the mistake of its life” if it started a war with Israel.

“We will strike it with a force it cannot even imagine, and the significance for it and the state of Lebanon will be devastating,” Netanyahu added.

Western leaders have warned Hezbollah against intervening but the group’s number two has said it is ready to step up involvement.

Israel has evacuated dozens of northern communities, and nearly 4,000 people in Lebanon have fled border areas for the southern city of Tyre.

‘Brothers, stop!’

Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin on Saturday said he had increased US military readiness in the Middle East.

The Pentagon said the move aimed to defend Israel amid what it called “escalations by Iran” and its proxies across the region.

It also said it was notifying additional troops to “prepare to deploy orders” without specifying how many or when they could be dispatched.

A ground invasion poses myriad challenges for Israeli troops, who are likely to face Hamas booby traps and tunnels.

Israel must also weigh the safety of the 212 hostages it says were abducted by the militants.

After a Cairo peace summit of regional and Western leaders finished without a joint statement, Pope Francis pleaded for an end to the bloodshed during his weekly Angelus prayer in Rome today.

He said: “War is always a defeat, it is a destruction of human fraternity. Brothers, stop!”

© AFP 2023