‘Operation Al-Aqsa Flood’ Day 153: Over 2 dozen Palestinian captives have ‘died’ in Israeli detention camps

Casualties 

  • 30,800+ killed* and at least 72,298 wounded in the Gaza Strip.
  • 424+ Palestinians killed in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.**
  • Israel revises its estimated October 7 death toll down from 1,400 to 1,147.
  • 587 Israeli soldiers killed since October 7, and at least 3,221 injured.***

*Gaza’s Ministry of Health confirmed this figure on Telegram channel. Some rights groups put the death toll number closer to 35,000 when accounting for those presumed dead.

** The death toll in West Bank and Jerusalem is not updated regularly. According to PA’s Ministry of Health on March 6, this is the latest figure.

*** This figure is released by the Israeli military, showing the soldiers whose names “were allowed to be published.”

Key Developments 

  • 27 Gaza detainees have died in custody at Israeli military facilities since October 7, reports Haaretz.
  • Gaza Health Ministry: Two more people have died of starvation, bringing the official death toll of those who have succumbed to malnutrition and dehydration in Gaza to 20.
  • HaMoked: Israel is imprisoning 9,077 Palestinians, including over 3,500 without charge in administrative detention.
  • South Africa asks ICJ for additional emergency measures against Israel.
  • Israeli army says they assassinated Hamas commander Ammar Attiya Darwish. 
  • Poll: 72 percent of U.S. Muslim voters “disapprove” of Biden’s stance on Gaza war.
  • Palestinian teenager shot by Israeli forces in Burin succumbs to injuries, reports Wafa
  • DCI: Israeli forces confiscate body of teen shot dead in the West Bank.
  • DCI: 108 Palestinian children have been killed in the West Bank since October 7.
  • Israeli forces assault and arrest female Palestinian journalist Bushra al-Tawil in Ramallah.
  • Palestinian Health Ministry: Israeli forces kill 83 people and wound 142 others in Gaza over 24 hours. 
  • UNRWA to test Israeli military road as means of getting aid to northern Gaza, reports Reuters

In Gaza, death by starvation is on the rise

Palestinians inside besieged Gaza have been actively starved by Israel for months, resulting in dire consequences. The situation is especially difficult in the north of Gaza, where only trickles of aid are delivered, and Palestinians are attacked by Israel when seeking out aid shipments.  

The Gaza Health Ministry reported two more people dying of starvation on Wednesday, bringing the official death toll of those who have succumbed to malnutrition and dehydration in Gaza to 20.

In opposition to the lack of food and water entering the besieged enclave, the children of Gaza are protesting, demanding swift action on the part of Arab countries and the international community, reported Al Jazeera Arabic on X. 

In the southern city of Rafah, children marched with a banner saying, “Stop our daily death.” Some carried burial shrouds on stretchers to symbolize those who have died of hunger.

Amid the shocking image, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the World Health Organization’s chief, has once again called for more aid to enter Gaza amid reports of children dying from malnutrition in the besieged enclave.

He said on X, “Children who survived bombardment may not survive a famine. Allow more aid for Gaza. Ceasefire.”

UNRWA spokesperson Tamara Alrifai told Al Jazeera the situation in Gaza is “so dire” and the despair “so high” that any passage of trucks becomes an attraction to those who are starving. 

“Ninety percent of the population today in Gaza is facing a high level of acute food insecurity,” Alrifai said.

“Therefore anyone seeing a convoy of aid trucks going through their part of Gaza will jump on these trucks out of hunger, despair and fear and will try to help themselves onto these convoys — especially as we’re hearing more and more about children under the age of two now dying of hunger-related diseases and dehydration,” Alrifai added.

Accessing northern Gaza has been “a real challenge,” Alrifai said.

“More than half the requests by the UN altogether to bring much-needed food, medical supplies, and clean water to the north have been rejected by the Israeli authorities,” she explained, adding that UNRWA has not been permitted to reach the area since January 23. “That’s almost six weeks of us not being able to bring food and medical supplies to people who are desperate and isolated in the north of Gaza.”

Jamie McGoldrick, the UN aid coordinator for Palestinian territories, says the UN has been pushing the Israeli military for weeks to use an Israeli military road bordering Gaza for humanitarian aid deliveries, reported Reuters.

Israel has allegedly become “more cooperative” following an incident in which its forces opened fire on Palestinian aid seekers in Gaza City, killing more than 100 people, he said. Monodoweiss Gaza Correspondent Tareq Hajjaj reported on the incident, which is known as the “Flour massacre.”

“Since the incident last week, I think Israel saw quite clearly how difficult it is to deliver assistance,” McGoldrick said, adding that the UN had seen “much more cooperation from Israel as a result of that realization.”

However, reports of Israeli forces attacking Palestinians waiting for aid have continued. 

On Wednesday morning, Al Jazeera reported Israeli forces opening fire on people waiting for humanitarian aid, wounding eight people. The attack took place at the Nabulsi roundabout in the southwest of Gaza City, the same location as the attack which killed over 100 people, nicknamed the ‘flour massacre.’

Currently, aid is delivered to northern Gaza from Rafah in southern Gaza and driven through the besieged Palestinian territory. The proposed new route would see aid trucks escorted through Israeli territory, avoiding fighting and insecurity. 

27 Palestinians mysteriously die in Israeli custody 

Since October 7, 27 detainees have died at military facilities in Israeli custody, according to a new report from Haaretz. The circumstances which the prisoners died in is not disclosed, however Palestinians have been sharing testimonies of severe torture at the hands of Israeli military and prison authorities for months. 

The police are holding Palestinians in makeshift cages made of bars, with no walls, beds or toilets, due to a shortage of prison cells, the report states. The makeshift cage-like installation, which is surrounded by improvised fences and has been in use for several weeks, has not been “approved as a detention facility,” unlike formal Israeli prisons, which are also notorious for their inhumane conditions. 

Justice Gad Ehrenberg from the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court has described the conditions as “unsuitable for humans,” and demanded that this matter be addressed by the commander of the police’s Jerusalem District.

In February, reports of torture and cruel treatment of Palestinians in Israeli custody, including reports of sexual violence against Palestinian women and girls surfaced, reaffirming the testimonies and claims of Palestinian detainees and prisoners.  

Thousands may be buried alive 

The death toll in Gaza has surpassed 30,000 people, not including thousands of people missing, likely trapped under the rubble of Israeli attacks. 

Hala Hazem Hamada, a 15-year-old girl in Gaza, was lucky enough to be rescued after being trapped for three days in the rubble of an Israeli attack that killed six of her relatives, including her parents and sister. 

Hamada told AFP, as cited by Al Jazeera, that the bloodshed began on Saturday when Israeli troops descended on the residential complex in Khan Younis where her family – originally from northern Gaza – had sought refuge.

“The Israeli soldiers shouted and asked us to evacuate, saying that the Hamad area is a military zone and they are here to free the captives. But we didn’t know where to go. My father said ‘Let’s wait for them to instruct us where to go’,” she said.

“After a quarter of an hour, the house started collapsing on us [leveled by bulldozers]. They started with the rooms, and we ran to other rooms and were telling them we surrender and lift our hands, get us out! But no one answered us back,” she said.

“All my family members were martyred except my sister Basant. She told me, ‘I’m scared, save me. If you have a room, save me.’ I tried to find a way to pull her out, but I couldn’t move, because the rubble is on my feet, and my father is on my leg. I couldn’t move.”

Then Basant went silent, leaving Hala alone to wait out the long hours before her rescue. Hala was finally pulled out of the rubble on Tuesday.

“I survived, but I want to see my family for the last time,” she told AFP.

“I saw my sister and father, but they have not been pulled out yet. They are still under the rubble. I want to see them to at least say goodbye.” 

Nothing left in Gaza

Israel has turned the besieged enclave into an open cemetery unfit for people to live in. So much of the territory has been destroyed, and people lack even the most essentials for survival. All the while, Israel continues attacking the civilian population. 

After five months of the war, top EU diplomat Josep Borrell says: “The actions of the Israeli government in Gaza give the impression that its objectives go beyond destroying Hamas,” quoting an Israeli general who pledged to “turn Gaza into a place that is temporarily or permanently impossible to live in.”

In a statement, Borrell has expressed concern over Israel’s killing of more than 100 Palestinian aid seekers and said the incident shows that “the international community needs to take decisive steps to save Gazan civilians from both starvation and violence.”

“And indeed,” Borrell continued, “almost everything that allows a human society to function has been destroyed: the civil register, property register, cultural and health infrastructure, and most of the schools built by UNRWA.”

The UN special rapporteur on the rights of internally displaced persons (IDPs), Paula Gaviria Betancur, believes the Israeli government has “lost all credibility” in its claims to protect civilians in the besieged territory. 

To make matters worse, Netanyahu’s administration has continued to plan a full-blown ground attack on Gaza’s southernmost city, Rafah, where over half of the besieged enclave population is seeking shelter. 

In a UN statement, Betancur appealed for an urgent end to the “dehumanization of displaced Palestinians.”

Betancur said that Israel had used its evacuation orders to forcibly transfer and confine civilians in “unlivable conditions” and that any assault on Gaza’s Rafah city, where some 1.4 million Palestinians are sheltering, would force people to flee to “conditions of certain death.”

“Although Rafah has already come under periodic attack by Israeli forces, a full-scale ground assault would lead to unimaginable suffering,” Betancur continued.

“Any evacuation order imposed on Rafah under the current conditions, with the rest of Gaza lying in ruins, would be in flagrant violation of international humanitarian and human rights law, forcing people to flee to conditions of certain death – deprived of food, water, healthcare and shelter,” the expert said. 

Betancur has also said the world “must abandon the fiction that Israel will respect the principles of international humanitarian and human rights law in its military operations,” as cited by Al Jazeera

“An immediate and permanent ceasefire, coupled with meaningful measures to document and ensure accountability for atrocities as well as secure the fundamental rights of Palestinians in Gaza, is the only path forward for the sake of our shared humanity,” Betancur concluded. 

Occupied West Bank: Illegal settlement expansion soars

As the world is focused on Israel’s attacks on Gaza, the Israeli government has taken the opportunity to expand its illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank. Israel has approved 3,500 housing units in three different illegal settlements across the occupied West Bank for the first time since October 7th. 

The development follows an announcement from far-right settler and Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who said Israel would expand its settlements in retaliation for a shooting that Palestinian gunmen carried out at a settlement in February.

Meanwhile, Nablus Governor Ghassan Daghlas told Al Jazeera attacks by settlers have risen since October 7, citing the killing or injuring of residents, expansion of settlements, and expropriation of land, as well as the looting and vandalizing of Palestinians’ property.

“This is all happening under the watchful eye of Israeli soldiers,” Daghlas said.

“Nablus is also being subjected to a large-scale siege – one that is driven by politics and not security. It is happening because of settler pressure to break the city of Nablus because it is the economic capital of the West Bank,” he continued.

“The international community must adhere to its laws and expose Israel as criminal. If there is no real international pressure on the occupying state, the situation is liable to explode,” he added.

Omar Ashour, a professor at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, told Al Jazeera that the Israeli announcement of building 3,500 settlement units in the occupied West Bank only seeks to increase violence against Palestinians.

“We know that October 7 happened partly because of settlement activities, escalations in Jerusalem, and the unresolved history of this conflict,” Ashour said.

“This is basically taking us into a similar round of escalation. It means that a peaceful resolution for this conflict is just getting further and further away.”

Ashour added that an increase in settlement activities will face more and more Palestinian resistance.

“Some of that will be violent, and we will see another cycle,” he said. “We’re seeing a cycle at the moment, it will just escalate in terms of its intensity, scale and scope.” 

The Qatari foreign ministry, among several other countries, have condemned Israel’s plans for settlement expansion.

In a press release shared on X, the Qatari ministry said Israel’s efforts to “Judaize large parts of the West Bank” constitute a “flagrant violation of international law” and undermine a potential two-state solution. It called on the international community to pressure Israel to halt such settlement policies. 

Betancur has also said the world “must abandon the fiction that Israel will respect the principles of international humanitarian and human rights law in its military operations,” as cited by Al Jazeera

“An immediate and permanent ceasefire, coupled with meaningful measures to document and ensure accountability for atrocities as well as secure the fundamental rights of Palestinians in Gaza, is the only path forward for the sake of our shared humanity,” Betancur concluded. 

South Africa asks ICJ for emergency measures against Israel 

South Africa has asked the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to order additional emergency measures against Israel to prevent the starvation of Gaza’s population. 

“The urgent application has been necessitated by widespread starvation in Gaza, which has claimed the lives of at least 15 children in the past week alone, with the actual numbers believed to be much higher,” the South African presidency said in a statement, as reported by Independent Press

“United Nations experts warn that the number of deaths will increase exponentially unless military activities are halted and the blockade is lifted,” the statement continued, demanding that the court order an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

“The situation is urgent. South Africa has no choice but to approach the Court for the strengthening of the Provisional Measures in place to try [to] prevent full-scale famine in the Gaza Strip.”

South Africa added that Israel is breaching the measures the ICJ put in place in January when it ordered Israel to refrain from any acts that could fall under the UN’s Genocide Convention and to ensure its troops commit no genocidal acts against Palestinians after South Africa accused Israel of state-led genocide.

In February, South Africa had lodged an “urgent request” with the ICJ to consider whether Israel’s military operations targeting Rafah breached provisional orders the Court handed down on January 26, which was rejected by the World Court. 

Jonathan Kuttab, co-founder of Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq, told Al Jazeera that South Africa’s latest request is “very proper under international law.”

“People seem to forget that it is the obligation of Israel under international law to provide food and basic services to the people under its occupation,” he said. 

“Not only has Israel failed to meet that obligation, it has also obstructed and prevented others from bringing food in as part of a deliberate strategy to starve the Palestinian people.”

However Al Jazeera’s Senior Political Analyst Marwan Bishara says any efforts by South Africa or the International Court of Justice to push Israel to take extra measures to protect civilian life in Gaza are unlikely to have any effect.

“It seems like they can rest assured that the United States will protect them as it has in the past,” he said.

“It’s been five months or more of the same. The Israelis, the Americans tell us, give them assurances that they will allow humanitarian aid that will reduce the casualties among the Palestinians, but they don’t do that. They don’t follow through. If anything, it is turning into an insult to injury.”

“Israel is humiliating its allies. It’s embarrassing its partners in the West, and it continues to carry on with his genocide.”

Still, Francesca Albanese, UN special rapporteur on the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, has expressed “pure gratitude and admiration” on X for South Africa’s new appeal to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) over Israel’s war on Gaza.

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