Rafah incursion reportedly begins, as famine arrives in parts of Gaza – Day 164

Rafah incursion reportedly begins, as famine arrives in parts of Gaza – Day 164

Rafah incursion begins under the radar; famine has begun, will spread quickly without ceasefire; Al Shifa hospital attack, US State Dept’s non-response; Marwan Barghouti in danger; home demolitions in West Bank; 2 most extremist Israeli officials threaten to quit in the event of an unsuitable hostage deal; Biden knew all along about deficiencies in Israel’s war plans; more

By IAK staff, from reports

RAFAH ATTACK IN PROGRESS – Middle East Monitor reports: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Gaza stated Tuesday the intensifying nature of Israeli air strikes in Rafah, where more than a million Palestinians are taking shelter, signals an expansion of Israeli “crimes” into the border town. 

“Israel has started to systematically destroy Rafah with daily attacks and repeated targeting of homes, killing civilians,” the statement read.

“Israel has started its aggression against Rafah without waiting for anyone’s permission or announcing the operation.”  

See heart-wrenching videos of the human toll of Israel’s onslaught at IMEMC: Day 165: “Genocide Continues; Israel’s Missiles Kill Dozens In Gaza”
Palestinian children wait to receive food in Rafah, southern Gaza
Palestinian children wait to receive food in Rafah, southern Gaza (photo)

FOOD INSECURITY – Washington Post reports: Famine may already be happening in northern Gaza, and it risks spreading across the besieged enclave, plunging 2.2 million Palestinians into the broadest and most severe food crisis in the world, the globe’s leading body on food emergencies said Monday.

The new report from a cluster of international organizations and charities known as the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification initiative, or IPC, outlined a devastating situation with up to half the population of Gaza — 1.1 million people — facing catastrophic levels of hunger and starvation between now and July. The most immediately affected areas are in the northern regions, which Israeli forces cut off from the enclave’s southern half and which only a trickle of aid has been able to enter.

Compared with the IPC’s previous analysis in December, acute food insecurity in the Gaza Strip has deepened and widened, with nearly twice as many people projected to suffer those conditions by July. The most dire projection is based on an escalation of the conflict, including a ground offensive in Rafah.

In northern Gaza, 70 percent of people already live with “catastrophic hunger”. Two-thirds of households report that at least 10 times, they have gone entire days and nights without eating. (The full report is available here.)

UN head Antonio Guterres says the IPC report on Gaza is an “appalling indictment” of conditions on the ground.

“This is an entirely man-made disaster, and the report makes clear that it can be halted,” the secretary-general told reporters at UN headquarters in New York.

The UN chief also called on Israel to ensure access to humanitarian aid throughout Gaza.

HOSPITAL ATTACK – Reuters reports: Israeli troops raided the compound of Gaza’s Al Shifa Hospital early on Monday, saying they killed over 20 gunmen, in an operation Palestinian health authorities said caused multiple casualties and set off a fierce fire in one of the buildings.

Special forces, supported by infantry and tanks, conducted a “precise operation” based on intelligence that the hospital was again being used by Hamas leaders, and were fired upon when they entered the compound, the military said.

“We apprehended more than 200 terrorist suspects* that are now being questioned. We eliminated more than 20 terrorists inside the hospital compound,” said spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari.

One Israeli soldier was killed in the fighting, he said.

In an update Tuesday morning, Middle East Eye reports: Israeli forces killed 50 Palestinians and detained 180 people during a raid on Gaza’s Al-Shifa hospital on Monday, according to Israel’s military. 

The military said that those killed were fighters, and those arrested were suspected members of Hamas. It did not provide any evidence of those claims.

Mondoweiss adds, plausibly, that Israel was targeting in the raid Faiq Mabhouh, the head of Gaza’s civilian police force, not part of Hamas’ military. He was in charge of civil law enforcement and coordinated humanitarian aid.

But the true significance of the attack lies…in foiling Faiq Mabhouh’s pivotal role in coordinating the delivery of humanitarian aid to starving civilians in Gaza while restoring a semblance of social order to the north. (He had probably arranged the orderly delivery and distribution of aid in northern Gaza Sunday.)

In other words, the attack on al-Shifa was an assassination operation aimed at breaking down civil order in northern Gaza. It aimed to facilitate Israel’s genocidal project and pave the way for total control over the area without resistance.

NOTE: Since October 7th, Israel has “apprehended” thousands of Gazan civilians, including children, pregnant women, and the elderly and sick. In many cases they were kept for weeks, and experienced torture and humiliation.
Thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank have also been arrested and faced inhuman conditions.
*NOTE: The use of the word “terrorist” for a group that resists occupation and oppression is a political, not fact-based choice. In reality, international law supports the efforts of resistance groups against an occupying power, even to the point of armed resistance. Hamas has clearly and openly stated that its enemy is not the Jewish people, but the racist ideology of Zionism – the ideology under which Israel dispossessed 750,000 Palestinian people and exiled them to Gaza and other locations. 

ARRESTED, RELEASED JOURNALIST SPEAKS – During the raid of Al Shifa Hospital, a number of Palestinian journalists were arrested, including Al Jazeera Arabic journalist Ismail al-Ghoul. He was released about 12 hours later.

Ismail al-Ghoul
Ismail al-Ghoul (photo)

Al Ghoul has spoken to the channel about his experience in Israeli custody.

He told Al Jazeera that Israeli forces stormed al-Shifa Hospital at dawn during intense fighting. They started by destroying media equipment and arresting journalists gathered in a room used by media teams, he said.

The journalists were stripped of their clothes, he continued, and were arrested and placed in a room inside the medical compound. They were forced to lie on their stomachs as they were blindfolded and their hands tied, he said. (Read more here.)

STATE DEPT “NO COMMENT” ON JOURNALIST ATTACK – Al Jazeera reports: One of our correspondents in Washington, DC, asked US State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel for comment on the arrest of Al Jazeera Arabic’s Ismail al-Ghoul by Israeli forces.

“Last evening our colleague, our correspondent, was arrested by the [Israeli army] in the outskirts of al-Shifa [Hospital] complex,” he said during a press briefing.

“He was wearing his vest. He had his equipment with him. He was beaten, stripped and got his equipment destroyed. The [Israeli army] clearly saw that he’s a journalist with his equipment, and this clearly didn’t stop them. Just add this to a long list of journalists that have been either killed, injured or detained by the Israeli forces,” he continued, before asking if the State Department had any comment.

“We’re aware of these reports, and we have asked the government of Israel for more information,” Patel replied, without elaborating.

NOTE: The Committee to Protect Journalsits (CPJ) reports that as of March 19, preliminary investigations showed Israeli attacks have killed at least 90 Palestinian journalists and media workers since October 7th. CPJ is also investigating numerous unconfirmed reports of other journalists being killed, missing, detained, hurt, or threatened, and of damage to media offices and journalists’ homes.
Under international law, journalists are to enjoy full protection as civilians.
Read about the assassination by Israel of one of Palestine’s most beloved journalists, Shireen Abu Akleh, here.

Marwan Barghouti is serving five life sentences in an Israeli prison
Marwan Barghouti is serving five life sentences in an Israeli prison (photo)

FEARS FOR LIFE OF PROMINENT PALESTINIAN – Palestinian-Israeli politician and Israeli parliament member Ahmad Tibi says the life of prominent Palestinian prisoner Marwan Barghouti is in danger inside the country’s prison system.

He told a press briefing that Barghouti has been beaten at least twice this month in solitary confinement, once on March 6 and again on March 12. He also said several Palestinian prisoners have died behind bars recently, with families and judges saying their bodies bore marks of torture.

NOTE: As a senior official in Fatah, Barghouti, 65, was arrested in 2002 and given four life sentences on charges of committing hostile acts against Israel during the Second Intifada. Opinion polls indicate that a broad segment of Palestinians want Barghouti to succeed Mahmoud Abbas as president.

WEST BANK HOME DEMOLITIONS – OCHA reports: The UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says about 300 houses have been demolished by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank since October 7.

It says 1,640 Palestinians have been displaced in the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem since that time. Fifty-seven percent of them have been displaced since the start of this year.

“The majority of those displaced (903) were during operations carried out by Israeli forces, especially in refugee camps in Jenin and Tulkarm, followed by displacement due to the lack of Israeli-issued permits (640) and displacement due to the demolition of homes on punitive grounds (138),” OCHA said.

Israeli forces demolishing a house belonging to a Palestinian Jamal Al-Sarsour for allegedly being unauthorized, on February 3, 2021 in Hebron, West Bank.)
Israeli forces demolishing a house belonging to a Palestinian Jamal Al-Sarsour for allegedly being unauthorized, on February 3, 2021 in Hebron, West Bank.) (PHOTO)

THREATS TO QUIT ISRAEL’S GOVT – Middle East Monitor reports: Israel’s Channel 13 said on Monday that two far-right ministers have threatened to withdraw from Benjamin Netanyahu’s government over a possible prisoner exchange deal with Hamas. Minister of National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said that they will carry out their threat if any deal with Hamas includes the release of dozens of Palestinian prisoners who were convicted of killing Israelis.

“In light of an Israeli delegation departing to Qatar to hold discussions on the plan to release the kidnapped Israelis,” said the channel, “Ben-Gvir and Smotrich said in closed talks that if dozens of detainees with blood on their hands were released, they would not remain in the government.”

The report noted that there is a lot of support for the emerging deal. An apparently overwhelming majority of ministers in the cabinet and the government also support the general framework of the deal. Indeed, one minister was cited as saying that, apart from Ben-Gvir and Smotrich, “no opposition is expected” from the cabinet when the exchange deal is proposed.

“However, it seems that Prime Minister Netanyahu has not yet reached a decision on this matter.”

BERNIE SANDERS writes “A Revolution in American Foreign Policy” for Foreign Affairs: After spending billions of dollars to support the Israeli military, the United States, virtually alone in the world, is defending Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing extremist government, which is waging a campaign of total war and destruction against the Palestinian people, resulting in the deaths of tens of thousands—including thousands of children—and the starvation of hundreds of thousands more in the Gaza Strip...

The United States is supplying Netanyahu’s Israel with billions of dollars in military funding while he annihilates Gaza. (Read the full article here.)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Joe Biden meet in New York on Sept. 20.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Joe Biden meet in New York on Sept. 20, 2023 (photo)

BIDEN KNEW MORE THAN HE LET ON – Washington Post reports: On Oct. 27, three weeks into Israel’s punishing counterattack in Gaza, top Biden officials privately told a small group assembled at the White House what they would not say in public: Israel was regularly bombing buildings without solid intelligence that they were legitimate military targets.

The group — top foreign policy officials from the Biden administration and previous ones — also discussed the apparent lack of an Israeli plan for defeating Hamas despite repeated U.S. prodding, according to three people familiar with the meeting, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a private exchange.

“We never had a clear sense that the Israelis had a definable and achievable military objective,” said one of those familiar with the meeting. “From the very beginning, there’s been a sense of us not knowing how the Israelis were going to do what they said they were going to do.” (Read the full article here.)

Jewish settler attacks against Palestinians are routine in the West Bank.
Jewish settler attacks against Palestinians are routine in the West Bank. (Activestills.org)

EU SANCTIONS SETTLERSEuropean Union foreign ministers on Monday have “unanimously” approved sanctions against violent settlers who harass Palestinians in the West Bank, Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares told reporters after meeting with his EU counterparts in Brussels.

“Today, we have approved, unanimously, the sanctions against the violent settlers that harass the Palestinians in the West Bank,” he said.

This move follows several rounds of sanctions against extremist settlers linked to violent attacks on Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich was quoted as responding to the news, “There is one holistic, Zionist response to this [EU] declaration – strengthening and entrenching settlements in all parts of the land of Israel.”

NOTE: Israel has illegally built around 280 settlements on Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, which are home to more than 700,000 illegal settlers. Israeli settlements and settlers on Palestinian land are a violation of international law. Settlers, moreover, have a history of violence against Palestinians, often with the assistance of Israeli military forces.

A photo taken by Al-Jazeera journalist Anas Al-Sharif shows a Palestinian family eating grass in Gaza
A photo taken by Al-Jazeera journalist Anas Al-Sharif shows a Palestinian family eating grass in Gaza (photo)

More News:

Electronic Intifada: Why do the media keep parroting Israel’s genocidal lies? – Chris Hedges with Ali Abunimah (video)
+972 Magazine: ‘Armchair humanitarianism’: The problem with Gaza’s maritime aid corridor
Middle East Eye: Palestinians are being forced to eat grass – here’s what it does to your body
Al Jazeera: Israeli settlers attack villages south of Nablus with military protection
Int’l Labor Organization: Palestinian unemployment rate set to soar to 57 per cent during first quarter of 2024
Mondoweiss: The real reason Israel stormed al-Shifa Hospital yet again
IMEMC: Israeli Army Attacks A Funeral In Hebron
Mondoweiss: Opposition to Palestinian rights shaped U.S. anti-terror laws


Palestinian death toll from October 7 – March 18: at least 32,254* (31,819 in Gaza* (72% women and children), and at least 435 in the West Bank (116 children). This does not include an estimated 7,000 more still buried under rubble (4,900 women and children). Euro-Med Monitor reports 40,042 Palestinian deaths.

At least 41 Palestinians have died in Israeli prisons (27 from Gaza, 14 from West Bank)

At least 31 Palestinians have died due to malnutrition**

About 1.7 million, or 75% of Gaza’s population are currently displaced.

About 2.2 million (out of total population of 2.3 million) are facing Crisis, Emergency, or Famine levels of food insecurity.

Palestinian injuries from October 7 – March 18: at least 78,624 (including at least 73,934 in Gaza and 4,690 in the West Bank).

It remains unknown how many Americans are among the casualties in Gaza.

Reported Israeli death toll from October 7 – March 18: ~1,403 (~1,139 on October 7, 2023, of which ~574 were civilians, 373 or 337 were security and/or military forces, ~32 were Americans, and ~36 were children); 250 military forces since the ground invasion began in Gaza;, 15 in the West Bank) and~8,730 injured.

NBC reports: “According to the latest available IDF data… nearly 1 in 5, or 17%, of all Israel’s losses have come not at the hands of Hamas but from mishaps on its own side.”

NOTE: It is unknown at this time how many of the deaths and injuries in Israel on October 7 were caused by Israeli soldiers.

*Previously, IAK did not include 471 Gazans killed in the Al Ahli hospital blast since the source of the projectile was being disputed. However, given that much evidence points to Israel as the culprit, Israel had previously bombed the hospital and has attacked many others, Israel is prohibiting outside experts from investigating the scene, and since the UN and other agencies are including the deaths from the attack in their cumulative totals, if Americans knew is now also doing so.

**Euro-Med Monitor reports that Gaza’s elderly are dying at an alarmingly high rate. The majority die at home and are buried either close to their residences or in makeshift graves dispersed across the Strip. There are currently more than 140 such cemeteries. Additionally, according to Euromed, thousands have died from starvation, malnourishment, and inadequate medical care; these are considered indirect victims as they were not registered in hospitals. 

Find previous daily casualty figures and daily news updates here.

For more news, go here and hereBroadcast news from the region is here.

Hover over each bar for exact numbers.
Source: IsraelPalestineTimeline.org

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