Civilians suffer as Israel and Hamas wage war

Gaza's 2.3 million residents are familiar with the horrors of war but many are fearful of what lies next

A Palestinian mother and her children inspect the rubble of their apartment at the destroyed Al Aklouk Tower following Israeli air strikes on Gaza City on Sunday. EPA
Powered by automated translation

Live updates: Follow the latest news on Israel-Palestine

Thousands of residents of Gaza have found themselves homeless after Israel launched hundreds of air strikes on the blockaded Palestinian enclave.

The onslaught comes in response to an unprecedented incursion into Israeli territory by Hamas militants, that left hundreds of Israeli civilians and soldiers dead.

Besides the strikes on what the Israeli military said were targets linked to Hamas, Israel also cut off power, internet and water supply to the territory after the Palestinian group launched thousands of rockets into Israel, as its fighters stormed towns and settlements around Gaza on Saturday morning.

As many as 600 Israelis are believed to have been killed in the attacks, although no official death toll has been issued, and about 2,000 injured, while Hamas claimed to have taken dozens more as hostages.

The majority of dead Israelis and Gazans are civilians, including women, children and the elderly. Israel formally declared a state of war on Sunday.

Palestinian authorities said more than 370 people were killed in the Israeli strikes, and about 2,000 injured.

Gazans speak after Israel strikes tower

Gazans speak after Israel strikes tower

The Hamas-run administration in Gaza said on Sunday that Israeli warplanes had hit 426 targets in the strikes launched hours after the Hamas attacks, including 13 residential buildings that were completely destroyed and 159 that were damaged.

Shadi Al Hassi, who lived next to the 14-storey Wattan tower in Gaza city's Al Remal neighbourhood that was destroyed on Sunday morning, said he was at a loss where to take his family for safety.

“I left my home at 4.30am after the bombing of the tower by Israeli warplane,” Mr Al Hassi told The National.

He said he had to call the civil defence to assist his father who suffered a head injury from the bombing.

“Suddenly we heard a heavy sound of bombing and dust and smoke covered the area,” he said.

“There is no safe place in Gaza now, everything could be targeted.”

For now, the family are living in his shop in the area, he said.

Power supply

Majed Al Boab, 33, said his neighbour phoned him at 5am to say that at an Israeli commander had called to tell everyone in their building to leave their homes immediately.

“We went to the street with around 150 others who have become homeless now,” he said.

An Israeli water company cut off its supply to Gaza, depriving municipalities in the central region of 50 per cent of their needs, the Gaza government said.

Power supply in the territory was reduced to four hours a day after Israel shut of its 120MW supply, leaving Gaza relying on its 65MW power plant, and that too was expected to last for only a few days unless Israel opened the border to let in more fuel.

The impact on overwhelmed hospitals has been almost instantaneous.

“Since the starting of this escalation the Israeli occupation stopped supplying Gaza with power which is around 70 per cent of Gaza’s needs,” said Ashraf Al Qudra, the spokesman of health ministry of Hamas.

The hospitals of Gaza started to run generators for a long time which could really strain the generator's capacity. Twenty thousand litres of fuel will be needed, decreasing the stock of fuel.”

“We need around 40,000 litres of fuel to run the generator for 12 hours. This will badly affect providing health services for patients and injured especially among the current escalation.”

Mohammed Salah, 44, said he was staying a hospital run by UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, after being forced to leave his home in Beit Lahiya, in the northern Gaza Strip.

“The situation is so difficult – there is no electricity or water in my home which forced me to come here for shelter,” he told The National.

Adnan Abu Hasna, a media adviser for UNRWA in the Gaza Strip, said that at least 20,363 displaced citizens were sheltering at 44 UNRWA schools in the territory.

The Hamas offensive appears to have surprised civilians in Gaza as much as it did Israel, with some expressing support for it despite the heavy price.

Mahmoud Mustafa, 42, said he wondered if he was dreaming when he saw the news while watching TV at his home in Gaza city's Al Remal neighbourhood.

“What is happening now is the dream of me and my grandparents and the dream of Arabs around the world,” he said.

“No one was expecting what is happening, all Palestinians and Arabs must be proud,” the government employee said while expressing worry over the consequences for his family.

“We will wait the response of Israel and hope for the safety for everyone,” he said.

News of the Hamas attack sent Gazans rushing to groceries and bakeries to buy supplies and food as they feared the operation and its fallout could last for many days.

Resistance groups

Meanwhile families in Gaza who live near the border fled their homes, moving towards the centre of the city, in anticipation of further Israeli bombardments.

“What happened today was a surprise for the Israeli occupation and is a big proof that resistance groups can plan and take the right decision at the right time” Mustafa Alsawaf, political analyst in Gaza told The National.

“The upcoming hours will make the Israeli occupation more confounded especially if more Palestinian parties engage in the fight beside the possibility of the engagement from other Arabian fronts,” he added.

Syria hosts a number of Iran-backed groups who express the hope of attacking Israel with rockets and drones over the Golan Heights.

“The Israeli soldiers and settlers who are captured by the resistance now are part of the battle aims, this will force the occupation to free the Palestinian prisoners inside Israeli prisons,” he continued.

“What is happening is unimaginable, the round of escalation is now difficult, and the Israeli reaction will be harsh” Naeem Abed Alnasser, 29, told The National.

“We don't know how it will end or what will happen, we worry about our families and children,” Naeem continued.

Hundreds of Gaza residents were calling for victory in Gaza's streets as Palestinian fighters brought in scores of captive Israeli soldiers and settlers, as well as an unknown number of foreign citizens, after they captured them from Israeli settlements. Hamas said they were not hostages, but “prisoners of war.”

Hamas fighters were moving around in the streets of Gaza after capturing Israeli armoured vehicles from nearby Israeli military camps.

“As a Palestinian people, we should be proud of what our heroic resistance has achieved, and despite all the restriction on us they succeeded to confront this enemy and beat them to death” Mohammed AlHato, 34, told The National.

“The scenes we have watched give us hope that we will liberate our lands one day,” he continued.

Updated: October 09, 2023, 9:00 AM