Israel has said it will open the Kerem Shalom crossing on Tuesday for the examination of humanitarian aid entering the Gaza Strip from Egypt.
The decision came after officials from UNRWA, the United Nations agency responsible for Palestinian refugees, warned that the crisis had become a “humanitarian catastrophe”.
UNRWA’s director of communications, Juliette Touma, said the agency was sheltering nine times more people than planned for in Gaza. “Now 1.3 million people are in overcrowded UNRWA shelters,” she said, adding that disease and hunger were spreading.
Israel is planning to continue fighting for weeks in its attempt to defeat Hamas, ignoring growing international calls for a truce.
As tanks advanced towards the centre of the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis, Israel urged residents to move west towards less populated areas.
Fighting also continued in the northern Gaza Strip where the Israeli Defence Forces says it hopes to complete its military operation by the end of this week. Defence minister Yoav Gallant said Hamas’s Jabaliya and Sejaiya battalions were “on the verge of being dismantled”.
Israel will have to decide whether to expand the operation in the south to areas such as Rafah on the Egyptian border and the refugee camps in central Gaza.
The military estimates that it can complete such an operation in about a month and a half. However, although Washington has not set a deadline, indications are that the Biden administration would like Israel to end the war by the end of the new year holiday period.
The Hamas military wing’s spokesperson, Abu Obaida, has warned Israel that none of the 137 hostages in captivity in Gaza will be returned without a prisoner exchange deal and without the acceptance of Hamas conditions, which include an end to the war.
The number of Israeli soldiers killed since the war started on October 7th passed the 100 mark on Monday. The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry says more than 18,000 Palestinians have been killed. Some 1,200 people were killed and 240 kidnapped in the Hamas attack on southern Israel on October 7th.