“We have been under total siege for seven days.” The audio message from Ahmed Muhanna, director of Al-Awda Hospital in northern Gaza, was delivered early on Thursday afternoon to dozens of journalists on WhatsApp groups for international media. It is a cry for help and a list of abuses: “Tanks are surrounding the hospital, one is blocking the entrance. They hit two floors, destroyed the surgery department. Three doctors died, two nurses were seriously injured. An anesthesiologist has burns on 80 percent of his body. They also hit the water tanks, we have no more left.”
98 doctors and nurses are still at Al-Awda, together with 36 patients – mostly women and children – and 38 of their family members. “For 68 days, since October 7, no medical supplies have arrived here. Nothing has arrived out of those that came in from Rafah,” Muhanna continues. “We are running out of food, oxygen has run out, fuel has run out. We are asking for help from the Red Cross and the WHO.”
As the call for help spread, an interview with Aboud, 12, was published by Al-Jazeera. He is one of the patients forced to evacuate from the Indonesian Hospital: “They shot at us. All the wounded threw themselves on the ground to avoid being hit. Bullets were coming in through the walls.” They finally got out, as “there was no other choice.” They got on a bus and the army stopped them. “They were taunting us. They left us all in the cold, outside the bus.”
The stories that are managing to come out of Gaza are filling in pieces of the puzzle. What is happening in hospitals is among the most painful realities: places of care turned into traps. On Thursday, the Red Crescent said that it had lost contact with its staff and ambulances in Gaza: Internet and phone networks were down again. It was the fifth blackout since October 7.
Without a communication network, there is no way for its 101 operational centers to function. “We regret to announce that all telecom services in Gaza Strip have been lost due to the ongoing aggression. Gaza is blacked out again,” the Paltel telecom company wrote on X.
For people struggling to find food, a working phone might seem like a useless luxury. That’s not the case, even for those who are spending their days fleeing from one place to another, searching for something to eat. In Geneva on Tuesday, Philippe Lazzarini of UNRWA (the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees) said that “people are stopping the aid trucks, taking the food and eating it right away, on the spot.” The trucks are not arriving at their destination for distribution, they’re being stormed by desperate people on the way, because “people haven’t eaten for two, three days.”
“Every time I go back it’s worse,” he added. “Gaza is no longer a habitable place. In one night, the number of people at Rafah quadrupled. Everything is missing; it’s not a place where a million people can live. Families live separated only by a blanket, a sheet.”
Even in Rafah, the place where the Israeli army is “inviting” Gazans to go, air raids continue. At least 26 were killed on Thursday at dawn when two residential buildings were hit. The next few hours were spent digging through the rubble. Reporters on the ground say children were left underneath.
It’s hard to say how many died. In any case, according to the British NGO Medical Aid for Palestinians, the total number is soon to reach 10,000 minors killed. The estimated numbers so far have reached 18,787 total dead, but that is a lower-end estimate as thousands are missing.
There’s no peace even for those who are already dead: on Thursday, the BBC verified and published a video showing the devastation of the al-Faluja cemetery in the north, razed to the ground by the passage of Israeli tanks. Against this backdrop, Jake Sullivan, the White House national security adviser, arrived in Israel on Thursday. He came to deliver the message that Tel Aviv needs to kill less.
The pressure from President Biden is growing, as he’s taking a political beating, both at home and elsewhere. The Israeli government can only answer with conflicting statements: Defense Minister Gallant told Sullivan that it would take “several months” to defeat Hamas, but the BBC reported that according to U.S. officials, Israeli authorities were talking about “two or three weeks” behind the scenes.
To clarify, that doesn’t mean the time till the end of military operations, but until their intensity is reduced. For his part, Sullivan insisted: Israel is losing many allies, it has gone too far. His words came after CNN’s exclusive report: according to U.S. intelligence, 40-45% of the bombs dropped on Gaza by Israel are unguided munitions, not “smart” ones – the kind that kill indiscriminately.
In the end, there was no agreement on the timing of the offensive, although this had been touted by the White House before the adviser’s arrival at Ben Gurion Airport. According to White House spokesman Kirby, “we want it to end as soon as possible,” but the U.S. was “not dictating terms” to Israel and doesn’t “want to put a timestamp on it.”
Hamas leader Osama Hamdan had a message from Beirut: if the U.S. wants “an end to Israeli aggression,” it would do well to stop vetoing U.N. resolutions at the Security Council.