Israel’s expanded offensive in the southern Gaza Strip could hold catastrophic consequences for Palestinians living in the enclave, a United Nations representative said.
“Nowhere is safe in Gaza and there is nowhere left to go. If possible, an even more hellish scenario is about to unfold, one in which humanitarian operations may not be able to respond,” Lynn Hastings, the U.N.’s humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories, said.
The Israel Defense Forces moved troops and tanks into the southern strip Monday evening, satellite images showed.
Israel is reportedly considering a plan to flood the tunnels Hamas operates under the Gaza Strip with seawater. The operation would be conducted over several weeks, pumping thousands of cubic meters of water into the tunnel network to disband Hamas fighters, The Wall Street Journal reported. It’s unclear how effective this plan would be, because “we don’t know how seawater will drain in tunnels no one has been in before,” one person familiar with the operation told the Journal. The pumping could also further damage Gazan infrastructure, and nearby farmland.
The IDF’s move to south Gaza will exacerbate growing humanitarian issues in the enclave. Israeli forces have entered Khan Younis, believing that Hamas’ leadership is located in the southern city. Thousands of Gazans have fled to the south from the north, which has been decimated by Israel’s heavy bombardment campaign. Regions are facing chronic overcrowding, and Palestinians who fled their homes must now decide if they will move again. “It is unacceptable that civilians have no safe place to go in Gaza, and with a military siege in place there is also no adequate humanitarian response currently possible,” Mirjana Spoljaric, the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, told The New York Times.
The World Health Organization said it was told by the IDF to remove its supplies and evacuate from a warehouse in southern Gaza, a claim the Israeli military has denied. The WHO sends supplies to 11 hospitals in the enclave, and there are concerns that medical equipment will not reach those in need if the warehouse closes. The WHO and IDF clashed publicly on social media platform X Monday, as the IDF accused the U.N. of being inaccurate about the notice it sent. “This has the possibility of growing into a bigger diplomatic row,” Al Jazeera’s Alan Fisher said.