Israel’s military intensified its bombing of Gaza over the weekend and launched a ground attack for the first time since its declaration of war.
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu called it a “second stage” in the war, which follows Hamas’ attacks on 7 October.
Hospital workers in Gaza have warned they received an “impossible” order from Israel to evacuate a hospital amid a rising death toll and deepening fears for civilians.
Here’s the latest.
In an attack on Israel on 7 October, Hamas killed over 1,400 people including civilians and captured over 200 hostages including 30 children. Hamas, which controls Gaza, is considered a terrorist organisation by Australia.
Israel responded by declaring war. It has bombed Gaza continuously and intends to “eliminate Hamas”. 8,000 people have been killed so far, including over 3,000 children.
Gaza is a small, densely-populated territory that Australia regards as occupied by Israel in breach of international law. Its residents are typically unable to leave and generally
rely on humanitarian aid.
Israel’s ground attack
Israel launched its long-anticipated ground attack on Gaza over the weekend.
It came after several days of intensifying bombing, which an Israeli spokesperson said was to make conditions easier for Israeli forces. Bombing saw phone and internet access in Gaza cut off on Friday and Saturday.
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu said the objective of the ground attack was a “lethal blow” to Hamas and warned of a long war.
The U.S, a key ally of Israel, has warned Israel against seeking to take control of Gaza.
Staff at the Al-Quds hospital in Gaza say Israel has issued an “impossible” order to evacuate the hospital.
The Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) runs the hospital. It has over 12,000 people sheltering in it, in addition to hundreds of patients. Israel accuses Hamas of using hospitals as “human shields”.
PRCS says the hospital’s intensive care unit includes children on incubators and others injured in airstrikes, and staff say “evacuating them means killing them”. PRCS has reported strikes near the hospital, filling it with dust and creating “huge panic and fear”.
UN aid workers say thousands of residents of Gaza broke into a warehouse containing humanitarian supplies. It says this is “a worrying sign that civil order is starting to break down”.
The flow of aid trucks into Gaza remains much lower than pre-war levels, and Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong says it is “nowhere near enough”.
Fuel, which is needed to power hospitals and water pumps, has still not been allowed in due to Israel’s concern it would be used by Hamas for military purposes.
Philippe Lazzarini, the official in charge of aid in Gaza, called the situation “hell on earth”.
Families of the more than 200 people who remain in Gaza as hostages have expressed fears about their safety. The Hostages and Missing Families Forum says it is “laser-focused” on securing safe release of the hostages from Hamas. Hamas has released four so far.
Some families have questioned the Israeli Government’s military response, which they say could put hostages at risk.
In a speech, Netanyahu said there was “no contradiction” between the military response and “bringing the hostages home at any price.”
The United Nations General Assembly has passed a resolution calling for an “immediate, durable and sustained humanitarian truce leading to a cessation of all hostilities”.
The resolution passed with 120 votes in favour, 14 against and 45 abstaining. China, Russia, France and New Zealand were among those who voted in favour. The U.S. and Israel voted against. Australia, the UK, Canada, Germany and Japan abstained.
In a speech, Australia’s UN Ambassador James Larsen said Australia agreed with calls for “humanitarian pauses on hostilities,” but “abstained with disappointment” because the resolution did not mention Hamas by name or recognise it as the perpetrator of the 7 October attack.
The U.S. also criticised the resolution for avoiding the use of the word “hostage” to describe those captured. “These are omissions of evil, they give cover to and empower Hamas’ brutality,” U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the UN.