Residents in Gaza and Israel are facing devastation, aid groups say

Thousands are seeking shelter inside UN schools as humanitarians call on Israel to open aid corridors

Palestinian women console one another outside a morgue in Khan Younis after identifying loved ones killed in an Israeli air strike. AFP
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Residents in Gaza and Israel are facing devastation after air strikes destroyed entire buildings on Wednesday, humanitarian groups told The National.

As the war enters its fifth day, more than 2,200 lives on both sides have been lost, and the conflict between Israel and Hamas is expected to escalate.

Many now fear a major ground invasion after some Israeli leaders spoke of an intention to militarily defeat Hamas. That would require a far bigger operation than a ground attack in Gaza in 2014, which led to more than 2,300 deaths.

“Buildings have been reduced to rubble. You look around and you see children's toys intermingled with debris on the streets, lying on the ground,” Sarah Davis, the International Committee of the Red Cross spokesperson in Jerusalem, told The National.

“There's the smell of smoke and fire in the air. Every time someone breathes in, you can taste the dust,” she said.

“There's that real tension in the air, people are distraught, they don't know where their loved ones are. We're seeing footage of that, of the damage that has occurred,” she said.

“And of course, as the hostilities are still ongoing, this humanitarian toll will only continue to rise,” Ms Davis said.

Alia Zaki, a representative from the World Food Programme, told The National: “The situation right now is incredibly devastating and we are really alarmed by what’s happening because the food, electricity and fuel are about to run out in Gaza.”

Hospitals are struggling to treat the injured amid shortages of medical supplies, after Israeli air strikes demolished neighbourhoods in Gaza on Wednesday.

“The issue here is that there's complete lack of security, there's no sense of hope for living the next day,” Hisham Mhanna, the ICRC's representative in Gaza, told The National.

Mr Mhanna said the scenes were horrific as “we are witnessing entire areas fleeing … without clear and safe pathways to reach to safe havens”.

Since the fighting erupted, nearly 200,000 Palestinian residents living near the Israeli border have left their homes to take shelter in United Nations refugee agency schools.

People have arrived from all areas along the Gaza strip at schools run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

Almost a quarter million people in Gaza are now internally displaced either inside UNRWA schools, or staying with their friends or families, Mr Mhanna said.

Ms Zaki said the World Food Programme is calling for an immediate humanitarian corridor to be established, as well as advocacy efforts to ensure there is safe and unimpeded access to food and water.

The food programme's emergency operation aims to reach 800,000 people in Gaza and the West Bank, she added.

“We've reached so far 137,000 people with ready-to-eat food rations and 164,000 people with e-vouchers.

“We aim to reach 200,000 people in Unrwa shelters, people who are displaced, with ready-to-eat food rations and 300,000 people in Gaza who are either displaced or hosting their families who have been displaced, with in-kind food, which is more than just bread and canned tuna,” she said.

“We're exploring the possibility of being able to set up kitchens and be able to provide food that’s cooked and ready to eat,” she said.

Updated: October 11, 2023, 2:56 PM