Tue. May 21st, 2024

From the frontlines of the Israel-Palestine war, NDTV brings you daily despatches by journalist Allan Sorensen, Middle East Correspondent for Danish newspaper Kristeligt Dagblad, giving insights and gripping first-hand accounts from the war-torn region.

With all signs pointing at the Israel-Hamas conflict turning into a war on multiple fronts soon, a new emergency government was established on Wednesday afternoon in Jerusalem. After days of negotiations, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reached an agreement with the centrist opposition party National Unity.

As part of the agreement, former Defense Minister Benny Gantz and his colleagues Gadi Eisenkot, Gideon Sa’ar, Hili Tropper, and Yifat Shasha-Biton will be ministers in the new government.

Benny Gantz will join the war cabinet with Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant. Former chief of staff of the Israeli army, Gadi Eisenkot, and Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer will assume observer status. The new Israeli emergency government has been established for the duration of the war with Hamas and possible other regional actors. It does not have any authority to legislate on issues not related directly to the war.

The broad emergency government has been warmly welcomed by large parts of the Israeli population. In a televised joint statement after the formation of the new government, Netanyahu said, “We set aside every other consideration because the fate of the country is at stake”.

Benny Gantz added, “Us standing here shoulder-to-shoulder is a clear message to our enemy, and more importantly, a message to all the citizens of Israel – we are all together, we are all mobilizing, we are all being mobilized.”

Finally, Yoav Gallant declared that the new Israeli government would “wipe Hamas out”.

Intensifying pressure on Gaza, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant ordered a blockade earlier this week, including a ban on food, electricity, water and fuel to the region. Early Wednesday afternoon, the Gaza power plant stopped working due to lack of fuel, cutting off the electricity in the entire area.

The Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt was closed Wednesday after it was hit by Israeli air raids twice. According to Israeli Channel 12, Israel wanted to prevent Hamas from smuggling fuel into Gaza.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres criticized Israel for its blockade of Gaza and said, “Life-saving supplies, including fuel, food and water, must be allowed into Gaza. We need rapid and unhindered humanitarian access now.”

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Israel was breaking international law with its total blockade of Gaza. The blockade is seen by many as collective punishment of the entire population in Gaza.

Egypt confirmed on Wednesday that it is working with the United States to provide humanitarian aid to Gaza via the Rafah border. At the same time, Egypt rejects a so-called “safe corridor” to enable Palestinians to leave Gaza.

The Israeli bombardment of Gaza escalated late Wednesday. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza, 51 Palestinians were killed in just one hour. The overall deaths in Gaza has crossed 1,200 while almost 6,000 have been wounded. At least 3,40,000 of Gaza’s 2.3 million inhabitants are now internally displaced. According to the UN, 65 per cent are in shelters such as UN schools.

The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs says Israeli air strikes have destroyed more than 22,600 residential units and 10 health facilities. Also, 48 schools have been damaged.

On Wednesday evening, a siren was heard in the northern Israeli city of Haifa for the first time since the latest escalation. At first, unofficial reports suggested that an unknown number of Lebanese Hezbollah fighters had managed to enter the city, carried by paragliders. The entire population in Haifa and its suburbs were asked to stay in, lock their doors and shut their windows.

One Israeli TV station showed pictures of an unmanned drone circling the sky above Haifa, and Hamas claimed responsibility for firing a missile on the city. Unconfirmed reports about Hezbollah paragliders in the mountainous Haifa area created some fear that Haifa would be attacked the same way as the smaller Israeli villages outside Gaza.

US President Joe Biden said he has warned Iran against escalating the conflict between Hamas and Israel. Both Hamas and Hezbollah are financed by Iran and are considered Iranian regional proxies.

“We made it clear to the Iranians – be careful,” Biden said during a meeting with American Jewish community leaders at the White House.

In a back-and-forth on whether Egypt had warned Israel about Hamas’ intentions to carry out a comprehensive attack, new information emerged on Wednesday.

US House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Michael McCaul told reporters that Egypt had warned Israel three days before the Hamas attack, according to US media.

“We know that Egypt had warned the Israelis three days prior that an event like this could happen. We know this event was planned perhaps as long as a year ago,” Michael McCaul stated.

The Israeli government strongly denies it had received any sort of early warning about an imminent Hamas attack.

The Saturday morning attack on Israel is considered the worst in the nation’s history due to the sheer scale of it. Citizens are still coming to terms with the devastation and loss of lives.

Israeli far right protesters rioted outside one of Israel’s main hospitals as a Hamas member was treated inside. The rioters blocked the entrance to the hospital and demanded that terrorists should not receive medical treatment in Israeli hospitals.

Allan Sorensen is the Middle East correspondent for the Danish daily newspaper Kristeligt Dagblad.

Disclaimer: These are the personal opinions of the author.

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