Intense Gaza fighting brings fear of constant death, Red Cross says

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Smoke from an explosion rises in Gaza, after a temporary truce between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas expired, as seen from southern Israel, December 2, 2023. REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko

By Alexander Cornwell

DUBAI (Reuters) – The resumption of fighting in the Gaza Strip has been intense, the director general of the Red Cross said on Saturday, as Israel air strikes and artillery bombarded the enclave a day after a week-long pause in hostilities there with Hamas collapsed.

Israel’s military has said it struck 400 militant targets and killed an unspecified number of Hamas fighters in the past 24 hours. Gazan health officials said hundreds of Palestinians had been killed since the end of the truce.

“We don’t have precise reports but what I can say is the resumption of fighting was intense again,” ICRC Director General Robert Mardini told Reuters at the COP28 U.N. summit in Dubai.

“It’s a new layer of destruction coming on top of massive, unparalleled destruction of critical infrastructure, of civilian houses and neighbourhoods,” he said, warning that the violence would make it difficult to get humanitarian aid into Gaza.

Mardini described Gaza as being in “shambles and rubble”. The ICRC had 130 staff working there, he said.

Israel and Hamas have traded blame over the collapse of the truce, during which the Palestinian militant group had released hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails.

The war started on Oct. 7 when Hamas militants stormed Israel, when Israeli authorities say they killed about 1,200 Israelis and foreigners and took around 240 hostage. The ensuing Israeli bombardment and invasion of Gaza has killed over 15,000 Palestinians, according to health officials in the enclave.

Mardini said that people in Gaza were “living in constant fear of violent death” and struggling to survive amid shortages of food and water caused by the fighting, while hospitals were working with limited resources.

“Everything in Gaza is at the breaking point,” he said.

The truce, which started on Nov. 24 and was extended twice, saw Israeli women and children and foreign hostages freed in exchange for Palestinian prisoners. But after seven days, mediators failed to agree on a third extension.

The Red Cross, a neutral, Swiss-based organisation, had helped facilitate those exchanges, including transporting hostages that were held in Gaza by the Hamas militant group.

“We stand ready to facilitate further release operations of hostages in Gaza, Palestinian detainees to be reunited with their families,” Mardini said.


(Tis story has been corrected to fix the quote to read ‘new layer of destruction’, not ‘new layer of disruption’, in paragraph 4)


(Reporting by Alexander Cornwell; Editing Giles Elgood)