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‘People are fearful of what’s to come’: Gaza civilians flee waves of Israeli strikes
Palestinians seek refuge but electricity and gas have been cut off and medical infrastructure is on its knees
- Israel and Hamas at war – live updates
Palestinians across the besieged Gaza Strip have described their terror and confusion, as thousands fled a wave of Israeli airstrikes after Hamas’s unprecedented cross-border incursion.
“When we began asking about the situation inside the hospitals we work with, one person described it as a slaughterhouse,” said Mahmoud Shalabi of Medical Aid for Palestinians, who is overseeing support to hospitals across the Gaza Strip.
“There were bodies laying on the ground, there wasn’t enough space in the emergency department and they were struggling to deal with the influx they were seeing.
“The situation is really dire at the moment, we have been facing one of the toughest escalations as Palestinians in Gaza.”
Israel pummelled Gaza, a slim strip of land home to about 2 million people, striking it from the sea and air overnight and into the following day.
“For your safety, immediately evacuate the areas where you live,” Avichay Adraee, a military spokesperson, instructed civilians in Gaza, writing on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. Many across Gaza feared there was nowhere to hide, in a 140 square mile area that has long been considered one of the most densely populated areas on Earth.
Shalabi said aid groups working inside Gaza estimated that at least 20,000 people were displaced on the first night of Israeli airstrikes. Thousands fled into Gaza City, already the most tightly populated area of the Strip, which witnessed airstrikes on tower blocks and other infrastructure.
Israeli forces claim they had selected targets linked to Hamas , while Palestinians based in Gaza accuse the Israeli military of striking civilian and residential infrastructure with tenuous connections to the militant group, which has ruled Gaza since an election in 2006.
“It’s been very worrying as you can imagine; there was a bombardment every 15 to 30 minutes throughout the night,” said Mohammed Ghalayini, an air quality scientist living in Manchester who had returned to Gaza for a rare visit to see family.
“Many people have been leaving their homes for places that are apparently safer – a friend in eastern Gaza has 80 relatives and neighbours staying with him in their block. My uncle in Khan Yonis has friends staying with him seeking refuge from their own homes which are on the eastern border [of Gaza].”
The airstrikes, drone strikes and artillery fire from ships on the Mediterranean came after Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, declared that his country was “at war”.
He vowed to enact an “immense price from the enemy”, after Hamas militants staged an unprecedented incursion into southern Israeli territory, capturing at least 100 Israelis and leaving at least 700 dead. The Palestinian health ministry said at least 400 were killed from Israeli airstrikes, including children, with almost 2,000 wounded.
Ghalayini said Palestinians were awed by the unprecedented nature of Hamas’s incursion into Israeli territory.
But, he added, this was not without widespread fear. “People are also very fearful of what’s to come. But Palestinians, especially in Gaza, have suffered so much over the past 15 years of blockade and attack after attack from Israel, so they feel they have nothing left to lose,” he said.
Netanyahu’s pledge to inflict pain on Gaza and target Hamas militants based in the strip follows more than a decade of repeated confrontations between Palestinian militants based in the strip and the Israeli military that has left thousands of civilians dead, as well as Israel’s 16-year blockade of the Gaza Strip.
The blockade prevents Palestinians from leaving except in exceptional circumstances, and curtails and controls the flow of goods into the area, particularly construction materials, medical supplies and even food.
After a meeting with the Israeli security cabinet, Netanyahu’s office declared they had shut off gas and electricity supplies to Gaza, and blocked goods passing through a border crossing in the north of the strip. Israel’s energy minister, Israel Katz, ordered a halt to Israeli electricity supplies, slashing Gaza’s electricity supply by 80%.
“The internet is very weak and there is no power. Even the backup generators that are now a secondary grid for those who can afford them are rationing,” said Ghalayini.
Shalabi described an unprecedented emergency situation for medical personnel across the strip, worsened by the lack of electricity as well as years of Israeli attacks that have left Gaza’s medical infrastructure on its knees.
“This morning I spoke to another doctor, a general surgeon, working in the central Gaza area. He told me they are lacking greatly medical supplies, drugs, disposables, everything needed in an emergency situation.”
“But most importantly there are not enough doctors to deal with the cases and the influx of injuries. [One] person was just starting his general surgery training, but has been managing the general surgery department for almost two days alone, while other seniors are dealing with more serious cases upstairs.”
He said his organisation immediately released its entire stock of medical resources including blood supplies, in an unusual move that exceeds their choices during previous Israeli airstrikes and attacks on Gaza.
“We are releasing everything at the moment because the situation is going to get really grim, really dire,” he said.
- Palestinian territories
- Middle East and north Africa
Egypt warned Israel of Hamas attack days earlier, senior US lawmaker says
What is Hamas, the militant group that rules Gaza?
Gaza hospitals in crisis, says WHO – as it happened
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Arab ministers urge Israel to resume talks on two-state solution
‘Together we will win’: Israelis fearful but defiant in face of uncertainty
Humza Yousaf’s wife talks of parents’ desperate plight trapped in Gaza
‘Pacifist at his core’: Britons missing and feared dead in Hamas attacks
‘It was a pogrom’: Be’eri survivors on the horrific attack by Hamas terrorists
Israel’s Military Says Hamas Has Taken Hostages
The issue of Israelis in captivity is a deeply emotional and explosive one in Israel, with the government having paid a high price in the past for the return of its citizens.
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By Riley Mellen and Aaron Boxerman
- Oct. 7, 2023
Hamas militants have taken Israeli soldiers and civilians as hostages, the Israeli military said on Saturday.
The comments from Israel’s top military spokesman, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, confirmed some of Israelis’ worst fears since the assault began. Residents of Israeli border towns had told broadcasters that gunmen were moving door to door, looking for civilians and both Hamas and Islamic Jihad, another small militant faction in Gaza, had issued statements claiming to have Israeli captives.
In addition to Admiral Hagari’s remarks, video verified by The Times appears to show several Israelis being taken hostage by Hamas militants in the Be’eri kibbutz, just under three miles southeast from the border with Gaza in southern Israel. In the footage, at least five people with their hands behind their backs are being led on a road by armed men on foot and on motorcycles.
Where the group ended up is unclear, but reports from Israeli news outlets suggested that up to 50 hostages were being held in a dining hall in Be’eri. Those details have not been confirmed by The Times, although Admiral Hagari did say Be’eri was one of two locations inside Israel with ongoing hostage situations.
Video posted to the messaging app Telegram earlier Saturday and verified by The Times showed armed militants crouching and taking up positions outside buildings in Be’eri. Some people have also posted appeals on social media asking for help locating friends and relatives from Be’eri and the surrounding areas who have not been heard from since Saturday morning local time.
Be'eri is one of several towns in the area in which gunfire has been reported since Saturday’s incursion began, and Admiral Hagari said fighting was still underway there as of early evening.
At the same time, a senior U.N. official and a diplomat familiar with the matter said the United Nations had confirmed the presence of Israeli civilian and military hostages inside the Gaza Strip. Abu Obeida, a spokesman for Hamas’s armed wing, claimed in a statement on the Telegram messaging app that the militant group had hidden “dozens of hostages” in “safe places and the tunnels of the resistance.”
The issue of Israelis in captivity is a deeply emotional and explosive one in Israel, with the government having paid a high price in the past for the return of its citizens or of the remains of soldiers in lopsided prisoner exchange deals.
In 2006, Gaza militants seized an Israeli hostage — the soldier Gilad Shalit — from the Israeli side of the border fence. Hamas, the Islamic militant group, held Mr. Shalit for five years until he was exchanged for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners from Israeli prisons, many of them convicted of deadly terrorist attacks against Israelis. The group has also been holding the remains of two Israeli soldiers killed in the 2014 war. Two Israeli citizens who had crossed by foot into Gaza are presumed to be alive.
Israel’s monthlong war against Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militant organization, in the summer of 2006 also began with a cross-border raid by Hezbollah and the abduction of two Israeli soldiers. The remains of the two soldiers were returned to Israel in 2008 as part of a prisoner exchange. Israel handed over five Lebanese prisoners, including Samir Kuntar, who had been held for nearly three decades after being convicted in connection with a deadly and notorious attack, in exchange for the soldiers’ bodies.
Isabel Kershner contributed reporting.
Riley Mellen is a reporter on The Times’s visual investigations team, which combines traditional reporting with advanced digital forensics. More about Riley Mellen
Our Coverage of the Israel-Hamas War
Hamas’s Goals: Mounting grievances fueled Hamas’s decision to attack Israel , but the nature of the surprise assault was shaped by a deep thirst for revenge built up over decades of conflict.
Israel’s Security Failure: Israel’s military and espionage services are considered among the world’s best, but operational and intelligence lapses paved the way for Hamas’s deadly incursion.
Hostage Situation: An estimated 150 Israelis , many of them civilians, have been abducted by Hamas . U.S. officials are determining if American citizens are among the captives.
Atrocity at a Kibbutz: A New York Times reporter and photographer visited an Israeli village raided by Palestinian gunmen . “It’s not a war or a battlefield; it’s a massacre,” said an Israeli commander on the scene.
False Claims: In the days since Hamas attacked Israel, misleading information has flooded social media. Here’s a look at some of the inaccurate material circulating online .
Doubts Over Iran’s Role: The United States has collected multiple pieces of intelligence that show that key Iranian leaders were surprised by Hamas’s attack .
Kevin McCarthy ousted as House Speaker in historic vote
WASHINGTON, Oct 3 (Reuters) - A handful of Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday ousted Republican Speaker Kevin McCarthy, as party infighting plunged Congress into further chaos just days after it narrowly averted a government shutdown.
The 216-to-210 vote marked the first time in history that the House removed its leader, with eight Republicans voting with 208 Democrats to remove McCarthy. McCarthy told reporters he would not make another run for speaker.
"I fought for what I believe in," McCarthy said. "I believe I can continue to fight, but maybe in a different manner."
The House looked set to go leaderless for at least a week, as multiple Republicans said they planned to meet on Oct. 10 to discuss possible McCarthy successors, with a vote on a new speaker planned for Oct. 11.
Tuesday's rebellion was led by Representative Matt Gaetz, a far-right Republican from Florida and McCarthy antagonist who finally turned on the speaker after he on Saturday relied on Democratic votes to help pass a bill to avoid a partial government shutdown.
"Kevin McCarthy is a creature of the swamp. He has risen to power by collecting special interest money and redistributing that money in exchange for favors. We are breaking the fever now," Gaetz told reporters after the vote.
It was the latest moment of high drama in a year when the Republican-controlled House brought Washington to the brink of a catastrophic default on U.S. debt of $31.4 trillion and a partial government shutdown .
Republicans control the chamber by a narrow 221-212 majority, meaning they can afford to lose no more than five votes if Democrats unite in opposition.
McCarthy's ouster as speaker brings legislative activity in the House to a halt, with another government shutdown deadline looming Nov. 17 if Congress does not extend funding.
The White House said it hoped the House would move swiftly to choose a replacement speaker , a position second in line to the presidency after the vice president.
The vote left Congress in uncharted waters as it scrambles to update farm-subsidy and nutrition programs, pass government funding bills and consider further aid to Ukraine .
It was unclear who would succeed McCarthy .
McCarthy had repeatedly angered Democrats in recent weeks, including by launching an impeachment inquiry into Biden and on Saturday by giving them little time to read a stopgap spending bill to avert a government shutdown that he needed their votes to pass.
Democrats could have saved McCarthy but, after considering it, said they would not help Republicans resolve their own problems.
Former Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) speaks to reporters after he was ousted from the position of Speaker by a vote of the House of Representatives at the U.S. Capitol in Washington. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst Acquire Licensing Rights
Other Republican leaders like Steve Scalise and Tom Emmer could possibly be candidates, though neither has publicly expressed interest. Representative Patrick McHenry was named to the post on a temporary basis.
The last two Republican speakers, Paul Ryan and John Boehner, retired from Congress after clashes with their right wing.
In debate on the House floor, Gaetz and a handful of allies criticized McCarthy for relying on Democratic votes to pass temporary funding that headed off a partial government shutdown.
"We need a speaker who will fight for something - anything - other than staying on as speaker," said Republican Representative Bob Good.
Representative Nancy Mace told reporters she voted to remove McCarthy as speaker because he broke promises to her on improving access to birth control and supporting a bill she wrote on rape kits.
"I've made deals with Kevin McCarthy, with the speaker, that he has not kept to help women in this country," Mace said. "We have done nothing for them."
McCarthy's supporters, including some of the chamber's most vocal conservatives, said McCarthy had successfully limited spending and advanced other conservative priorities even though Democrats control the White House and the Senate.
"Think long and hard before you plunge us into chaos, because that's where we're headed," said Republican Representative Tom Cole.
NO DEMOCRATIC SUPPORT
Democrats said they viewed McCarthy as untrustworthy after he broke a May agreement on spending with Biden.
"Let them wallow in their pigsty of incompetence," Representative Pramila Jayapal told reporters before the vote.
Gaetz was one of more than a dozen Republicans who repeatedly voted against McCarthy's bid for speaker in January. McCarthy ultimately secured the gavel after 15 rounds of voting over four days. To win the job, McCarthy agreed to rules that made it easier to challenge his leadership.
McCarthy supporters have said Gaetz was motivated by a hunger for publicity, a chance to win higher office or resentment over an ongoing ethics probe into possible sexual misconduct and illicit drug use.
Gaetz has denied wrongdoing and said he is not motivated by a dislike of McCarthy.
"This isn't a critique of the individual - it's a critique of the job. The job hasn't been done," he said.
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Statement from President Joe Biden Condemning Terrorist Attacks in Israel
This morning, I spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu about the horrific and ongoing attacks in Israel. The United States unequivocally condemns this appalling assault against Israel by Hamas terrorists from Gaza, and I made clear to Prime Minister Netanyahu that we stand ready to offer all appropriate means of support to the Government and people of Israel. Terrorism is never justified. Israel has a right to defend itself and its people. The United States warns against any other party hostile to Israel seeking advantage in this situation. My Administration’s support for Israel’s security is rock solid and unwavering. Jill and I are keeping in our prayers all of the families who have been hurt by this violence. We are heartbroken by the lives that have been tragically cut short and hope for a swift recovery for all those who have been wounded. My team and I are tracking this situation closely, and I will remain in close touch with Prime Minister Netanyahu.
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