Civilians trapped by fighting between Israel, Hamas in Gaza

GAZA – Thousands of civilians were trapped in southern Gaza by bombardment and fighting between Israeli troops and Hamas fighters on Jan 27, a day after the top UN court ruled Israel must prevent genocidal acts.

Growing alarm has focused on Khan Younis, the biggest city in Gaza’s south, where the two main hospitals were barely functioning under the weight of the relentless bombardment and the press of thousands in need.

Witnesses reported more overnight strikes on Khan Younis, the current epicentre of Israel’s assault on Gaza, and the Palestinian Red Crescent Society said some of the dead and wounded had been taken to the city’s barely functioning Al-Amal hospital.

The strikes came after the International Court of Justice in The Hague ruled that Israel must prevent possible acts of genocide in its war against Hamas, the Islamist group that controls Gaza.

The court, which has virtually no enforcement power, stopped short of calling for an end to the fighting but also said in its ruling that Israel must facilitate “urgently needed” humanitarian assistance.

“This is the first time the world has told Israel that it is out of line,” said Ms Maha Yasin, a 42-year-old displaced Palestinian woman in Gaza.

“What Israel did to us in Gaza for four months has never happened in history.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected the case as “outrageous”.

Israel’s relentless bombardment and siege of the Palestinian territory began soon after Hamas’s unprecedented Oct 7 attacks that resulted in about 1,140 deaths in Israel, mostly civilians.

Militants also seized about 250 hostages and Israel says around 132 of them remain in Gaza, including the bodies of at least 28 dead captives.

Israel has vowed to crush Hamas and the health ministry in Gaza says the Israeli military offensive has killed at least 26,083 people, about 70 per cent of them women and children.

Hospital services ‘collapse’

Fierce fighting between Israeli troops and Hamas fighters has raged for days around Khan Younis, forcing tens of thousands to flee further south to Rafah on the border with Egypt.

With a humanitarian crisis growing in Khan Yunis and northern areas of Gaza, UN agencies say most of the estimated 1.7 million Palestinians displaced by the war are crowded into Rafah.

At Khan Younis’ Nasser Hospital, the largest in the besieged city, Doctors Without Borders said surgical capacity was “virtually non-existent”.

The international medical aid organisation said in a news release that medical services at the hospital had “collapsed” and the few staff who remained “must contend with very low supplies that are insufficient to handle mass casualty events”.

World Health Organisation chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on social media platform X that 350 patients and 5,000 people displaced by the fighting remained at the hospital and that fighting in the vicinity continued.

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