Wednesday, May 15, 2024
After the seven-day truce collapsed, Israeli forces have focused their attention on southern Gaza to remove Hamas fighters trapped in the area. Officials of the Biden administration indicated that they had advised Israel to put in more effort to avoid injuring civilians in Gaza than they did in the early stages of the war. According to figures provided by Gazan health officials, over 300 individuals were killed in Gaza daily between Saturday and Monday, a daily figure similar to that from the earlier stages of the war. The U.N. humanitarian office reported that the period from Sunday to Monday afternoon “saw some of the heaviest shelling in Gaza so far.” Some legal experts noted that they had not noticed significant changes in how Israel was conducting its war in Gaza, partially because the warnings to civilians to relocate appeared to be ineffective and the scale of the campaign made it uncertain if anywhere in Gaza was truly safe. Israel has published an online map dividing Gaza into numerous sections. Military personnel have been active on social media to inform Gazans which sectors to evacuate and where they should go. A spokesman for the State Department, Matthew Miller, stated that although it was early to make definite assessments, the United States noticed indications that Israel was executing changes to limit civilian casualties. Orders for evacuation have caused confusion among Gazans, many of whom have no access to the map or the instructions due to electricity and communication problems. Some who followed the orders found themselves crowded into areas without proper shelter or facilities. Omar Shakir, director at Human Rights Watch, stated that warning systems are crucial to protect civilians from warfare and that a more accurate map was theoretically more beneficial than wide-scale evacuation orders. However, he said Israel’s new system was not significantly better than what came before it. Additionally, Mr. Shakir noted that Israel’s continued use of bombs and heavy artillery in densely populated areas increases the risk of civilian casualties. U.S. officials reported that they had privately urged Israel to use smaller bombs to collapse Hamas’s tunnel network, but it was unclear if Israeli forces were adhering to the advice. Israeli authorities claim that their military operations aim to destroy Hamas and that they take extensive measures to protect civilians. They often attribute the extent of destruction in Gaza to Hamas, citing their use of civilians as human shields. The health authorities in Gaza state that over 15,000 individuals have died since the start of the war. While they do not differentiate between civilians and fighters, they claim that most of the dead are women and children.

Matt Mpoke Bigg contributed reporting.

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