Trucks filled with international aid for Gaza should arrive “in a day or so”, the United Nations said on Friday, as Palestinians desperate for life-saving supplies after brutal bombardments from Israel are still reeling from the bloodiest attack ever .
Israel has vowed to destroy Hamas after the Islamist militant group launched an unprecedented attack from the Gaza Strip on October 7, killing at least 1,400 people, mostly civilians who Israeli officials say were shot, maimed or burned.
Hamas gunmen also kidnapped nearly 200 hostages, including foreigners from about two dozen countries ranging from Paraguay to Tanzania.
In response, Israeli warplanes have leveled entire city blocks in Gaza in preparation for a ground invasion that is said to take place soon. More than 3,785 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have been killed in the bombings, according to the latest figures from the Hamas-led Health Ministry.
The United Nations says more than a million of Gaza’s 2.4 million residents have been displaced and the humanitarian situation is deteriorating daily.
A spokesman for the UN’s humanitarian chief, Martin Griffiths, told reporters in Geneva that they were in “deep and advanced negotiations” with all parties to ensure aid arrived “as quickly as possible”.
“A first delivery will begin in about a day.”
Medicines, water purifiers and blankets were unloaded at Gaza’s El Arish airport, an AFP reporter saw, while Ahmed Ali, head of Egypt’s Red Crescent, said he was receiving “two to three aid planes a day”.
The situation in Gaza is “beyond catastrophic,” said Sara Alzawqari, UNICEF spokeswoman for the Gulf region. “Time is running out and the number of child victims is increasing.”
Egypt’s state broadcaster Al Qahera News had said the Rafah border crossing – the only route into Gaza – would open on Friday, but Cairo has said it needs more time to repair the roads.
To raise some hope that aid could flow soon, Egypt has removed concrete blocks on the only route to Gaza, a security source told AFP.
Egypt is still repairing bomb-damaged roads and on Friday “vehicles and Egyptian equipment went in to repair the road on the Palestinian side,” witnesses told AFP.
The World Health Organization’s emergency director has called an agreement by US President Joe Biden to allow 20 trucks in “a drop in the ocean”.
“It should be 2,000 trucks,” Michael Ryan said.
Inside Israel, still coming to terms with the deadliest attack in its 75-year history, the drumbeat of war grew louder as its leaders gathered troops for a ground offensive.
Dressed in bulletproof vests, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu embraced troops on the front line near Gaza and urged them to “fight like lions” and “win with full force.”
With clenched fists and a raised voice, Netanyahu told cheering soldiers: “We will deliver hard blows to our enemies to achieve victory.”
Defense Secretary Yoav Gallant also toured the front lines, telling some of the tens of thousands of troops awaiting the ground invasion that “the order will come soon.”
“Now you see Gaza from afar, soon you will see it from within,” Gallant said.
Israeli warplanes struck more than 100 Hamas targets overnight, killing at least one Hamas operative, the military said Friday.
The horror of what Israel endured on October 7 and the following days continued to emerge as traumatized residents told their stories.
Shachar Butler, security chief at Kibbutz Nir Oz, where Hamas militants killed or kidnapped a quarter of the 400 residents, remembers more than a dozen armed men randomly spraying bullets and throwing grenades at houses.
“It’s unimaginable,” the 40-year-old told AFP as part of a trip organized by the Israeli army.
“Every time someone tried to touch my window, I shot him,” he said. “The people who came out were kidnapped, murdered, executed and massacred.”
Butler estimated that as many as 200 militants attacked the kibbutz, entering from three sides before going from house to house. The houses there were still charred and burnt personal belongings lay everywhere.
Israel says about 1,500 Hamas fighters were killed in fighting before the army regained control of the attacked areas.
Keeping the world together
In a rare speech from the Oval Office, Biden urged the United States to take the lead in supporting Israel and Ukraine, saying he would make an “urgent” request for help to Congress later Friday.
“American leadership is what holds the world together,” Biden said in his second primetime address from behind the historic Resolute Desk.
Fresh off a whirlwind trip to Israel this week, Biden hopes to make good on the possibility of a broader war in the Middle East.
The United States has already moved two aircraft carriers to the eastern Mediterranean to deter Iran and Lebanese Hezbollah, both allies of Hamas, from becoming involved.
But fears of a wider conflagration are growing as Israel announces plans to evacuate the northern town of Kiryat Shmona after days of clashes with Hezbollah fighters along the border with Lebanon.
The conflict has stoked emotions across the region and authorities are preparing for mass protests in several countries, with Hamas urging demonstrators to target Israeli and US embassies.
Meanwhile, Gaza students in Egypt told AFP of their nightmare as they watched the events unfold from afar.
Haya Shehab, 21, learned from an Instagram post that her extended family’s home had been bombed, killing 45 people — including dozens of cousins.
“Just like that, 45 of us left,” said Shehab, who studies at a private university in Cairo.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)