UN agency worried about breakdown of civil order after aid warehouses looted.
Israel to allow an increase in aid and urges civilians to move south.
Israeli military says it struck over 450 militant targets over the past 24 hours.
Palestine Red Crescent Society says Israel has asked it to evacuate al-Quds hospital in Gaza City.
Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry says death toll from Israeli airstrikes surpasses 8,000.
Thousands of people broke into aid warehouses in Gaza to take flour and basic hygiene products, a UN agency said Sunday, in a mark of growing desperation and the breakdown of public order three weeks into the war between Israel and Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers.
Tanks and infantry pushed into Gaza over the weekend as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a “second stage” in the war, three weeks after Hamas launched a brutal incursion into Israel. The widening ground offensive came as Israel also pounded the territory from air, land and sea.
Gaza’s Health Ministry said the death toll among Palestinians has passed 8,000, with even higher casualties expected on both sides as Israel presses its ground offensive.
The bombardment over the weekend — described by Gaza residents as the most intense of the war — knocked out most communications in the territory late Friday, largely cutting off the besieged enclave’s 2.3 million people from the world. Communications were restored to much of Gaza early Sunday.
The Israeli military said Sunday it had struck over 450 militant targets over the past 24 hours, including Hamas command centres, observation posts and anti-tank missile launching positions. It said more ground forces were sent into Gaza overnight.
‘Civil order is starting to break down’
Thomas White,director for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, known as UNRWA, in Gaza, said the warehouse break-ins were “a worrying sign that civil order is starting to break down after three weeks of war and a tight siege on Gaza.”
“People are scared, frustrated and desperate,” he said.
Mohamed Elmadhoun of Mississauga, Ont., finally reached his brother in Gaza on Sunday by phone, but they could only talk for a short time because it’s difficult to charge cellphones.
PHOTOS | Israeli tanks, infantry push into Gaza as Palestinian death toll rises:
“It was a nightmare” hearing his young nephew in the background crying for water, Elmadhoun told CBC News.
“Imagine a baby, three years, four years old, and he cannot find water,” he said.
UNRWA provides basic services to hundreds of thousands of people in Gaza. Its schools across the territory have been transformed into packed shelters housing Palestinians displaced by the conflict. Israel has allowed only a small trickle of aid to enter from Egypt, some of which was stored in one of the warehouses that was broken into, UNRWA said.
Juliette Touma, a spokesperson for the agency, said the crowds broke into four facilities on Saturday. She said the warehouses did not contain any fuel, which has been in critically short supply since Israel cut off all shipments after the start of the war.
Meanwhile, the International Criminal Court (ICC) said Sunday that impeding relief supplies to Gaza may constitute a crime under ICC jurisdiction, the court’s top prosecutor told a news conference in Egypt on Sunday.
Karim Khan, the ICC’s top prosecutor, also said at a news conference in Egypt Israel must make “discernable efforts, without further delay to make sure civilians receive basic foods, medicine.”
The ICC has been investigating in the occupied Palestinian territories since 2021, looking into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity there from 2014 onwards.
Israel, which is not a member of the ICC, has previously rejected the court’s jurisdiction and does not formally engage with its investigations.
Airstrikes reported near hospital
Residents living near Shifa Hospital, Gaza’s largest, meanwhile said Israeli airstrikes overnight hit near the hospital complex and blocked many roads leading to it. Israel accuses Hamas of having a secret command post beneath the hospital.
Tens of thousands of civilians are sheltering in Shifa, which is also packed with patients wounded in the strikes.
“Reaching the hospital has become increasingly difficult,” said Mahmoud al-Sawah, who is sheltering in the Gaza City hospital. “It seems they want to cut off the area.”
Another Gaza City resident, Abdallah Sayed, said the Israeli bombing over the past two days was “the most violent and intense” since the war started.
The army recently released computer-generated images showing what it said were Hamas installations in and around Shifa Hospital, as well as interrogations of captured Hamas fighters.
Little is known about Hamas’s tunnels and other infrastructure, and the claims could not be independently verified. Hamas’s government denied the allegations and said they were aimed at justifying future strikes on the facility.
WATCH | How Hamas uses its labyrinth of tunnels in Gaza:
Featured VideoHamas uses an elaborate network of tunnels for everything from storage to staging attacks, and they pose a big challenge for Israel. CBC’s Ellen Mauro breaks down how the tunnels change the war and make things more dangerous for the Israeli military and the Palestinians who live above them.
The Palestine Red Crescent Society’s rescue service said another Gaza City hospital received two calls from Israeli authorities on Sunday ordering it to evacuate. It said airstrikes have hit as close as 50 metres from the Al-Quds Hospital, where 12,000 people are sheltering.
Israel had ordered the hospital to evacuate more than a week ago, but it and other medical facilities have refused, saying it would mean death for patients on ventilators.
There was no immediate Israeli comment on the latest evacuation order or the reported strikes near Shifa Hospital.
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Israel says most residents have heeded its orders to flee to the southern part of the besieged territory, but hundreds of thousands remain in the north, in part because Israel has also bombarded targets in so-called safe zones.
An Israeli airstrike hit a two-storey house in the southern city of Khan Younis on Sunday, killing at least 13 people, including 10 from one family. The bodies were brought to the nearby Nasser Hospital, according to an Associated Press journalist at the scene.
The escalation has meanwhile ratcheted up domestic pressure on Israel’s government to secure the release of some 230 hostages seized in the Oct. 7 rampage, when Hamas fighters from Gaza breached Israel’s defences and stormed into nearby towns, gunning down civilians and soldiers in a surprise attack.
Aharon Brodutch is an Israeli Canadian with relatives who are missing and believed to be hostages in Gaza. He was attending a rally in Toronto on Sunday to call for the immediate release of the hostages.
“We’re trying to just raise awareness to the situation,” Brodutch told CBC News. “It’s been 22 days now that my family has been held hostage,” including his sister-in-law, Hagar, and her children, 10-year-old daughter Ofri, eight-year-old son Yuval, and another son, Uriah, who’s four-and-a-half years old.
PM meets with hostage families
Desperate family members of the hostages met with Netanyahu on Saturday and expressed support for an exchange for Palestinian prisoners held in Israel.
Hamas’s top leader in Gaza, Yehia Sinwar, said Palestinian militants “are ready immediately” to release all hostages if Israel releases all of the thousands of Palestinians held in its prisons. Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, an Israeli military spokesperson, dismissed the offer as “psychological terror.”
WATCH | Israeli PM says ‘this will be a long war,’ meets families of hostages:
Netanyahu told the nationally televised news conference that Israel is determined to bring back all the hostages, and maintained that the expanding ground operation “will help us in this mission.” He said he couldn’t reveal everything that is being done due to the sensitivity and secrecy of the efforts.
“This is the second stage of the war, whose objectives are clear: to destroy the military and governmental capabilities of Hamas and bring the hostages home,” he said in his first time taking questions from journalists since the war began.
Netanyahu also acknowledged that the Oct. 7 “debacle,” in which more than 1,400 Israelis were killed, would need a thorough investigation, adding that “everyone will have to answer questions, including me.”
The Israeli military said it was gradually expanding its ground operations inside Gaza, while stopping short of calling it an all-out invasion.
Despite the Israeli offensive, Palestinian militants have continued firing rockets into Israel, with the constant sirens in southern Israel a reminder of the threat.
The Palestinian death toll in Gaza rose Saturday to just over 8,000 people since the war began. according to the Gaza Health Ministry.
An estimated 1,700 people remain trapped beneath the rubble, according to the Health Ministry, which has said it bases its estimates on distress calls it received.
Israel says its strikes target Hamas fighters and infrastructure and that the militants operate among civilians, putting them in danger.
Aid entering from Egypt to increase
Israel would allow a dramatic increase in aid to Gaza in the coming days, an official said on Sunday, calling on Palestinian civilians to head to what he described as a “humanitarian” zone in the south of the territory.
“In the coming week we were planning to increase dramatically the amount of assistance” headed for Gaza from Egypt, said Col. Elad Goren of Cogat, the Israeli Defence Ministry agency that co-ordinates with the Palestinians.
“We have marked a humanitarian zone in the southern Gaza Strip in the Khan Younis area…. We still recommend that the civilian population that evacuated will go to this zone,” he told media during an online briefing.
More than 1.4 million people across Gaza have fled their homes, nearly half crowding into UN schools and shelters, following repeated warnings by the Israeli military that they would be in danger if they remained in northern Gaza.
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