Israel has launched a ground invasion of Gaza, re-entering the tiny territory after three years. Over 600 Palestinians have died and over 2700 have been injured, while a reported 10 Israelis have died, including one soldier, and a few dozen have been injured in the 11-day war. The U.S. has blocked a ceasefire attempt at the UN.
On Saturday, January 3rd, Israeli ground forces comprising thousands of soldiers supported by tanks, artillery, jet fighters, attack helicopters, and navy attack vessels, invaded the Palestinian territory of Gaza, eight days after launching an aerial assault against the tiny strip of land.
The planned ground offensive by the Israeli army was commenced after foreign women and children with dual citizenships were allowed out, and amid a complete media blackout as foreign reporters have been banned from Gaza – a local TV station was also targeted by Israel early into the offensive, though evidence of the assault continues to trickle out of the blockaded territory via the internet and cell-phones.
Palestinian and foreign hospital officials have indicated nearly 600 Palestinians have been killed during the 11-day war, with an additional figure of over 2700 injured. Although Israel has utilized its complete media blackout to contest these figures, the figures have been confirmed by the UN, including from the offices of some of the highest-ranking UN officials on the ground in Gaza.
Israel has also stepped up its propaganda war by claiming that most of the dead Palestinians are militants. However, on Tuesday, health officials (both Palestinian and foreign) in Gaza announced 30 Palestinians had died today, of which only two were militants.
In fact, the UN now has announced that about a full half of all dead Palestinians are confirmed civilians, a huge increase since the beginning of the ground invasion as previous UN estimates had indicated about only 25-30% civilian casualty rates amongst the Palestinians. (Actually, the true proportion of civilian-to-non-civilian mortalities must be much, much higher in a guerrilla, urban warfare setting since the accepted ratio is usually two civilians for every one dead soldier in conventional wars).
UN staff estimate approximately 15,000 Palestinians have fled to 23 UN-run schools in the territory seeking sanctuary from the Israeli offensive.
However, Israel struck 2 UN-run schools today used by Palestinian civilian refugees as shelter from the Israeli attack. The first attack killed three people. The second, more deadly attack at a school in a densely populated refugee camp, killed over 30 innocent civilians, mostly children, and injured over 50 more. The location of both schools was provided by the UN to Israel in order to prevent an “accidental” attack.
10 Israeli residents are reported to have died since the war began, including at least one soldier. Hamas continues to propel crude homemade rockets into Israel, but almost all of them fail to reach a target. The continuing Hamas’ attacks appear to be more a symbol of defiance than actual military strategy, but despite Israel’s offensive, there does not appear to be any substantial damage to Hamas’ ability to fire rockets into Israel.
On Saturday, the day the ground war began, the U.S. blocked a Libyan sponsored initiative to attempt to prevent further bloodshed through a Security Council resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire – the U.S. objective is to provide Israel with as much time as it needs to continue the ferocious attack.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian civilian death toll rises as the Israeli offensive continues unabated.
“There’s nowhere safe in Gaza. Everyone here is terrorized and traumatized.”
– John Ging, top U.N. official in Gaza
Manjit Singh is a contributor to Geopoliticalmonitor.com