Deadline For Israel Ground Assault On Gaza Nears As Large Protests Erupt In US, Europe

Toll from haevy bombing by Israel rose to 2,215 Gazans, including over 700 children as thousands flee towards the safe zone with a ground invasion looming

Deadline For Israel Ground Assault On Gaza Nears As Large Protests Erupt In US, Europe

Israel on Saturday continued to pound civilians in Gaza, including those fleeing to the southern border indicated by Tel Aviv as a 'safe zone' as it prepares for a ground invasion. The toll for Palestinians killed topped 2,215 on Saturday, including 724 children.

At the same time, large protests erupted in major Western centres, including the US, England and Europe, even though in some of these countries, either the protests for Palestine against Israel were banned or panned by leaders.

Thousands of Palestinians streamed towards the southern border with Egypt in hope after Israel indicated to the 1.1 million residents of the northern part of the strip that the south was a safe zone. However, witnesses claimed that Israel bombed some of these fleeing convoys, killing scores.

Some Palestinians said that they had refused to leave, claiming that they would be targeted either ways, but to flee would be to relive the Nakba (great tragedy) of 1948.

Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh, in a statement on Saturday, said that an Israeli bombing had killed 22 hostages taken last week, accusing Israel of committing "war crimes" and of stopping humanitarian aid from entering the narrow strip.

The Human Rights Watch had earlier accused Israel of using American supplied White Phosphorous bombs in Gaza. The use of the munition in densely populated areas is deemed by many to be a war crime. 

Israel denied using the munition. Israel has, however, in the six days since the Hamas attack last week, dropped over 6,000 bombs, more than the US did in Afghanistan in a year. The attacks have destroyed over 1,300 buildings in Gaza, the UN said.

Meanwhile, Israel, which has already blockaded Gaza, cutting off all supply of electricity, food, water and gas, massed tanks and other heavy ground forces ready to invade Gaza. It said that some 'localised raids' had already commenced. 

Violence spilling over

The violence from Gaza has spilled into the West Bank and to the Israel-Lebanon border as well.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said that skirmishes with Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank had killed 53 Palestinians in the past week.

Towards the north, the border with Lebanon, cross-border shelling by Israel killed a Reuters video journalist was killed while six other reporters -- from AFP, Reuters and Al Jazeera -- were wounded in southern Lebanon.

'Dangerous new low' and protests

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres termed the situation in Gaza as "a dangerous new low".

He demanded that civilians should be protected and not used as 'shields'.

Meanwhile, massive protests erupted in New York, London and Munich.

The protest in New York saw a large turnout of Jews who were opposed to the war. They raised the slogan "not in our name" as they criticised the actions of the Israeli government.

A massive rally was also held near the offices of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in London, with thousands in attendance. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had earlier criticised protesters and the BBC.

Protesters waved Palestinian flags and held up placards inscribed with slogans of "freedom", "end the massacre" and "sanctions for Israel".

Earlier on Friday, police in southeast England arrested a young woman for making a speech backing Hamas.  

In Munich, police tried to break up a pro-Palestinian rally.

There were reports of large protests in Jordan near the border with Israel.

US diplomacy

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken jetted around the Arab Gulf meeting with leaders, conveying the White House's stance on the conflict and the US backing of the matter.

As part of his blitz, Blinken met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Jordan's King Abdullah II, Qatar's Amir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, Bahrain's Crown Prince and Prime Minister Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa and his counterpart in Riyadh.

In an official statement, the trips were described as "efforts to prevent the conflict from spreading" and America's affirmative vision for a region that is "more peaceful, more prosperous, more secure, more integrated."

Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, has tacitly decided to pause all efforts to normalise ties with Israel.

Distancing from conflict

With a post going viral about a global fast food franchise distributing free meals among Israeli soldiers waiting to invade Gaza, its franchises in Muslim countries on Saturday moved to distance itself from it.

In Pakistan, the fast food chain said that it was a local enterprise that was not affiliated with the franchise operated in Israel.

It clarified that it was a commercial entity with a "single-minded focus on serving great food and providing exceptional service".

It added that they do not engage in any form of political involvement.

A similar message was posted by the franchise in Kuwait. However, it reiterated their support of Palestine and Palestinians, especially in Gaza.

It added that they were donating $350,000 to the Kuwait Red Crescent to help with relief efforts in Gaza.

Separately in the United Arab Emirates, the Sharjah Book Authority said that it was withdrawing participation in Frankfurt's annual book fair over the stance adopted by the fair's organisers.

"We champion the role of culture and books to encourage dialogue and understanding between people. We believe that this role is more important now than ever."