Gazans endure ‘catastrophic’ conditions as territory pounded by Israeli jets

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Living conditions in the besieged Gaza Strip have deteriorated sharply as Israeli warplanes pounded the coastal enclave for a fifth day and the Palestinian territory’s sole power station ran out of fuel and was forced to go offline.

The UN agency responsible for Palestinian refugees said 11 of its staff had been killed in Gaza since Israel launched its response to the deadly October 7 incursion into the Jewish state.

More than 1,200 Israelis were killed in the multipronged assault by Hamas militants who were based in Gaza. Palestinian health authorities say 1,055 people have been killed by the Israeli bombardment since Saturday.

By early afternoon on Wednesday, mains electricity supply to homes and hospitals had ended and residents feared water shortages because Israel has cut connections to Gaza and there is little fuel left to power pumps for underground water.

Residents also feared that fuel stocks used to operate generators would run out soon and it would not be possible to replenish them because Israel has threatened to bomb any trucks carrying humanitarian aid from Egypt.

Bodies of people killed in overnight shelling are brought to be buried. Gazans say they are living in constant fear © Said Khatib/AFP/Getty Images

Gazans describe the nonstop sound of bombing, streets packed with rubble, collapsed buildings and many of the territory’s 2.3mn residents on the move seeking refuge with relatives or with the UN.

“There is no safe place in Gaza. We’re in constant fear,” said Refaat Alareer, a lecturer at Gaza Islamic University. He said his children were constantly woken by the sound of bombs that would also shake their building, and the city “smelt of smoke, cement and explosives”.

Like other Gazans, they were hosting fleeing relatives in what was now an overcrowded flat. “We try to avoid going out so as not to be exposed to shrapnel or shells. Most roads have also been destroyed including those leading to the main Shifa hospital,” he said.

Najla Shawa, a spokeswoman for Oxfam, described how she, her family and the 18 people sheltering in her home had fled the apartment on Monday night after warnings that a neighbouring building was about to be bombed.

“I can’t describe the terror we felt,” she said. “There was screaming, and it was a horrific sight when the building was hit. We took the car and drove away and the street was full of broken glass and rubble.”

Feras, a 31-year-old Gazan, had high hopes for the future in the days before the Hamas assault on Israel, having won a scholarship to study for an executive MBA at the University of Richmond in Virginia — an opportunity that now seems a distant prospect.

“Now all that has run away, everything is destroyed,” he said. Supplies of food, water and electricity are now in short supply and expected to finish in the next few days.

He and his family had been advised by the Red Cross to leave their block in the better-off Al-Rimal district and were staying with family nearby. An Israeli strike had destroyed the nearby mosque, causing collateral damage to his building as well.

Al-Rimal was once deemed relatively safe from Israeli reprisals in previous wars, unlike Gaza’s border districts and refugee camps. “People here are known to be from the big Gaza families and not participating in any terrorist work, but now we are being destroyed too,” he said.

As the bombing continued and Israel prepared for what was expected to be a land invasion, Gazans were bracing for more pain.

“It’s already very dangerous and a ground offensive will be even harsher,” said Alareer. “Even if we manage to hide, with the little food we have and with no water, we will die.”

Israel-Hamas war

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