Reporters see Gaza's devastation in guided Israeli tour

An Israeli tank manoeuvres through rubble, amid the ongoing ground invasion of Gaza. (Photo/Reuters)

Blackened windows, shattered bedrooms, pockmarked walls. Wherever you look in northern Gaza, you see destruction and desolation a month into Israel's war and invasion in besieged Gaza.

Israeli military on Wednesday gave a small and embedded group of foreign reporters a rare view of its war in the Palestinian territory, driving them along sandy routes, churned by tank tracks, to the fringes of Gaza City.

Stopping at a cluster of apartment blocks, every building within sight is scarred by battle. Walls have been blown away, bullet holes and shrapnel dot the facades, the palm trees are shredded and broken.

"It's been a long two weeks of fighting. It is not an operation, it is a war," said Lieutenant Colonel Ido, deputy commander of the 401st brigade. He did not give his last name. "It is going to last a long time, until Hamas no longer exists."

Israeli military invaded Gaza on October 27 after days of heavy bombardment that has killed more than 10,500 Palestinians following a surprise Hamas blitz through the separation fence on October 7, which Israel says killed 1,400 people.

Hamas says its coordinated raid was in response to Israel's desecration of Al Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem, Islam's third holiest site, and increased state-sanctioned Israeli settler violence across the occupied Palestinian territories.

Hospitals in Gaza are nearing collapse under Israel's wartime siege, which has cut power and deliveries of food, fuel and other necessities to the territory.

Over the past 12 days, thousands of Israeli troops have encircled Gaza City, effectively cutting the densely populated coastal enclave into two, as they look to fight and kill Hamas fighters.

Very few details have emerged about the invasion. Reuters footage shot during the 1-1/2-hour tour on Wednesday was reviewed by the Israeli army as a condition for having a journalist embedded.

The reporters were driven to the site in a heavily armoured, hi-tech vehicle known as a Tiger, which has no windows. Instead screens connected to cameras on the outside show the occupants where they are going.

Piles of earth have been banked up to give protection to army vehicles parked outside the wrecked buildings. Idling tanks have sturdy metal grills on top to protect them from possible drone attack from the air.

A lone chicken ran around under the tanks.

War crimes

According to latest figures released on Wednesday, 31 Israeli soldiers have been killed during the Gaza ground invasion, and more than 260 wounded. Palestinian officials say 10,569 people have been killed by Israeli forces since October, 40 percent of them children.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said on Wednesday war crimes had been committed by both Israel and Hamas in the conflict.

"The atrocities perpetrated by Palestinian armed groups on 7 October were heinous, they were war crimes — as is the continued holding of hostages," Volker Turk said at the Rafah crossing in Egypt on the border with Gaza.

"The collective punishment by Israel of Palestinian civilians is also a war crime, as is unlawful forcible evacuation of civilians," he added.

Israel has resisted calls by the United Nations and G7 nations for a humanitarian pause in the hostilities to alleviate the suffering in Gaza, saying it will not agree to a ceasefire until the hostages are released. Hamas says it will not stop fighting while Gaza is under attack.

"Even in the context of a 56-year occupation, the situation is the most dangerous we have faced for people in Gaza, in Israel, in the West Bank but also regionally," Turk said.


Source: TRT