Amidst international appeals for Israel to safeguard civilians and alleviate the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip, the IDF announced on Wednesday morning the establishment of a "humanitarian zone" in a small coastal area along the southern Gaza Strip, known as Al-Mawasi, situated just north of Rafah. This zone is designed to serve as a safe haven for the Palestinian population, aimed at reducing the risk of attacks.
In a statement released this morning, the IDF urged residents of northern Gaza to evacuate to the Al-Mawasi humanitarian area. They also attached a map that clearly delineates the protected zone.
The IDF's announcement came in the wake of international shock following the explosion at Gaza City's Baptist Hospital last night, which Palestinians claim resulted in the tragic loss of hundreds of lives. In response to the explosion, angry demonstrations erupted in several Arab countries, leading to the cancellation of a summit in Amman, where PA President Abu Mazen was scheduled to meet with US President Joe Biden. Additionally, Hezbollah declared an "unprecedented day of rage" to be observed today.
אסור למדינת ישראל לאפשר הכנסת סיוע הומניטרי לרצועת עזה עד שלא תותר כניסה של נציגי הצלב האדום לבדוק את מצבם של החטופים ולהעניק להם סיוע הומניטרי.— אביגדור ליברמן (@AvigdorLiberman) October 18, 2023
על זה הקהילה הבינלאומית צריכה להילחם בכל הכוח. הטור המלא>> https://t.co/NexfgptE74
Israel, however, vehemently denied any responsibility for the hospital explosion. They published videos demonstrating that it was a failed rocket launch by the Islamic Jihad that caused the tragic incident at the hospital. In a new video released this morning, the IDF showcased images from Air Force systems and explained that the hospital was documented in these images before and after the failed Islamic Jihad rocket launch.
Russia, which has consistently criticized Israel throughout the conflict and has not explicitly condemned the terrorist attack by Hamas, returned this morning to implicitly censure Israel. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova referred to the hospital explosion as a "shocking and inhumane crime" and held Israel accountable, urging Israel to provide satellite images that can substantiate its claims of non-involvement.
Meanwhile, IDF operations persist in the Gaza Strip. This morning, the IDF disclosed that in the past day, they targeted numerous military objectives, resulting in the elimination of two additional Hamas operatives. The attacks encompassed operational headquarters, multiple Hamas assembly areas, sites used for launching rockets and anti-tank missiles, and terrorist infrastructure, some of which included Hamas smuggling tunnels.
Image published by Palestinian media shows the aftermath of the failed Islamic Jihad rocket that landed in the parking lot of a hospital in Gaza. Surrounding buildings appear largely intact. pic.twitter.com/WoTz1sLU5M— Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian (@manniefabian) October 18, 2023
Ahead of the arrival of US President Biden, a decrease in the number of IDF attacks in the Gaza Strip is noticeable, and in the last day or so they have decreased from hundreds a day to a few dozen. Israel is afraid of heavy barrages during the president's visit that will disrupt his visit, and therefore also decided not to launch a ground operation at least until Biden leaves Israel.