Israel faces international outrage as Gaza offensive rages on

GAZA (AP) : Israel is facing international outrage over its ongoing offensive in the Gaza Strip that has killed thousands of Palestinians and displaced almost 90 percent of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents.

Demonstrations were held in several cities across the world, including in the United Kingdom, Europe, and the United States, in support of the Palestinians and calling for an end to the war.

Battles raged across Gaza early on Monday as Israel indicated it was prepared to fight for months or longer to defeat the territory’s Hamas rulers.

UN agencies have warned that Palestinians have no safe place to flee as Israel continued its ground and air attacks, with diplomatic support and arms from close ally the United States.

UNSC resolution and the General Assembly

The United States has lent vital support in recent days by vetoing a United Nations Security Council resolution to end the fighting and pushing through an emergency sale of over $100 million worth of tank ammunition to Israel.

The UN General Assembly scheduled an emergency meeting Tuesday to vote on a draft resolution demanding an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza.

Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian ambassador to the UN, told The Associated Press that it is similar to the Security Council resolution the US vetoed Friday.

There are no vetoes in the General Assembly but unlike the Security Council its resolutions are not legally binding. They are important nonetheless as a barometer of global opinion.

Israel’s air and ground war has killed thousands of civilians following Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack that left 1,200 people dead and saw about 240 hostages taken, according to Israeli officials.

Over 100 of them were released during a weeklong cease-fire last month.

Food, water shortages and mass displacement

With very little aid allowed in, Palestinians face severe shortages of food, water and other basic goods.

Some observers openly worry that Palestinians will be forced out of Gaza altogether.

“Expect public order to completely break down soon, and an even worse situation could unfold including epidemic diseases and increased pressure for mass displacement into Egypt,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told a forum in Qatar, a key intermediary.

Eylon Levy, an Israeli government spokesman, called allegations of mass displacement from Gaza “outrageous and false.”

However, global human rights groups have documented the mass forced displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians since October 7.

Residents in the northern part of the strip were ordered to flee to the south in the early weeks of Israel’s war.

In the past few weeks, the Israeli army then began instructing Palestinians in several southern neighborhoods to evacuate as it launched a new phase of attacks.

Qatar’s prime minister, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, told the forum that mediation efforts seeking to stop the war and have all hostages released will continue, but “unfortunately, we are not seeing the same willingness that we had seen in the weeks before.”

Israel’s national security adviser, Tzachi Hanegbi, told Israel’s Channel 12 TV that the US has set no deadline for Israel to achieve its goals.

“The evaluation that this can’t be measured in weeks is correct, and I’m not sure it can be measured in months,” he said.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told CNN that as far as the duration and the conduct of the fighting, “these are decisions for Israel to make.”

This is a war that cannot be won, Jordan’s foreign minister, Ayman Safadi, asserted to the Qatar forum, warning that “Israel has created an amount of hatred that will haunt this region that will define generations to come.”

Fighting and arrests in the north

Israeli forces face heavy resistance, including in northern Gaza, where neighborhoods have been flattened by airstrikes and where ground troops have operated for over six weeks.

Israel’s Channel 13 TV broadcast footage showing dozens of detainees stripped to their underwear, hands in the air. One man held an assault rifle above his head, walked forward and placed a gun on the ground.

Other videos have shown groups of unarmed men held in similar conditions, without clothes, bound and blindfolded.

Detainees from a group released Saturday told The Associated Press they had been beaten and denied food and water.

Israeli military spokesperson Daniel Hagari said dozens of arrests took place in two Hamas strongholds and that people are undressed to make sure they are not hiding explosives.

Residents said there was still heavy fighting in the Gaza City neighborhood of Shijaiyah and the Jabaliya refugee camp, a dense urban area housing Palestinian families who fled or were driven out of what is now Israel during the 1948 war.

“They are attacking anything that moves,” said Hamza Abu Fatouh, a Shijaiyah resident. He said the dead and wounded were left in the streets as ambulances could not reach the area.

Heavy fighting also was underway in and around the southern city of Khan Younis.