Hamas is stopping hundreds of Americans from leaving Gaza according to US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan. Around 500 to 600 US passport holders are believed to be trapped in Gaza, hoping to get out, according to the Biden administration official. At least 88 Australian citizens and hundreds of other foreign nationals are also believed to be blocked from leaving the enclave.
Mr. Sullivan revealed that the US government remains in contact with its citizens in Gaza and is working to help them leave, saying that Egypt is willing to allow Americans and other foreign nationals out of Gaza. “But Hamas is preventing their departure and making a series of demands. We’re trying to work through that to create a circumstance where all of the Americans who are in Gaza are able to get out,” the national security advisor explained. “It is a priority for the president. He has no higher priority than their safe passage out. And he will continue to work at it until it is accomplished,” he added.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has released audio of a Gazan man telling an IDF officer that Hamas is blocking civilians from fleeing the northern Gaza strip and that the terrorist group is shooting at people attempting to heed Israel’s warnings to evacuate. “Hamas continues to use the civilians of Gaza as human shields, not allowing them to evacuate,” the IDF stated in a tweet.
This week Israel has sent more ground troops into Gaza and launched the next phase of its war by targeting Hamas’s military capabilities and seeking to secure the release of hostages. The IDF has been urging residents to leave northern Gaza to prevent civilian casualties especially around Gaza City which is the reported location of hundreds of tunnels and bunkers used by Hamas. The United Nations has estimated that about 700,000 Palestinians have heeded the order while Israel estimates around 350,000 Palestinians remain in northern Gaza. The UN added that as many as 1.4 million out of a population of about 2.3 million Gazans have been displaced.
According to the Hamas-run health ministry, around 8,300 Palestinians have died in Gaza since the start of hostilities. These numbers are almost impossible to verify and may be counting both civilians and Hamas members according to The Times of Israel.
The IDF says around 300 targets have been hit over the past 24-hours and “numerous Hamas terrorists have been killed” by its troops, who battled “terrorist cells that fired both anti-tank missiles and machine gun fire toward them.” Among the targets successfully hit were anti-tank missiles and rocket launch posts below tunnel shafts, as well as military compounds inside underground tunnels.
Israel has reopened the second of three water pipelines to provide water to the Gaza Strip. However, 90% of Gaza’s water is self-sourced and is supposed to go through desalination plants. Due to a lack of fuel, which Israel claims Hamas is keeping from civilians, these plants have been unable to run.