Humanitarian crisis in Gaza worsens ahead of anticipated Israeli invasion against Hamas

Another night of Israeli airstrikes in Gaza and Hamas rocket fire into Israel as its massive invasion force sits on the border, poised to strike. At the southern end of Gaza, the main border crossing with Egypt remains closed as aid waits to go in to help support Palestinians and to allow foreigners in Gaza to leave. Leila Molana-Allen reports.

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  • Amna Nawaz:

    Another night of Israeli airstrikes in Gaza and Hamas rocket fire into Israel, as Israel's massive invasion force sits on the border poised to strike. At the far southern end of Gaza, the main border crossing with Egypt remains closed, as aid waits to go in to help support Palestinians and to allow foreigners in Gaza to leave.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    Meantime, the combined death toll is now nearly 4,100, with almost 2,800 Palestinians killed and more than 1,400 Israelis killed, mostly in the October 7 Hamas terror attacks.

    And the "NewsHour" can confirm that 2,000 U.S. troops have been to told to be ready to deploy in response to the war.

    Leila Molana-Allen again begins our coverage tonight.

  • Leila Molana-Allen:

    Packing up and shipping out. Israel continues calling up army reservists by the hundreds of thousands to fight what it promises will be a devastating retaliatory war against Hamas.

    Since yesterday, we have seen preparations for this conflict start to roll out on a massive scale, tanks and artillery rolling down the highway on civilian trailers commandeered by the army in their thousands going to amass on the Southern Gaza border, in a huge show of force, as they prepare for an almighty battle.

    And all those vehicles and soldiers need fuel to run on. Yaarit usually manages this gas station on the southern highway. It has been closed since the attacks, like other shops and restaurants across the country. With all its staff called up to fight, there's no one to work. So she's come to staff the checkout counter and keep it open.

    Several of Yaarit's friends were murdered in the attacks. As her country mourns and plans its vengeance, she says she wants to do her part.

  • Yaarit Onigstein, Ashkelon, Israel Resident (through interpreter):

    It's like they came into my house and shot me. That's really how it feels. So, I came here to provide service for Soldiers and people, in spite of my fear and worries.

  • Leila Molana-Allen:

    Like so many others here, Yaarit is determined to fight back, but terrified of what that fight may bring.

  • Yaarit Onigstein (through interpreter):

    This is a war of uncertainty. We won't be the same after it. There's the life we lived before, and the life that we live now after what happened.

  • Leila Molana-Allen:

    As bus after bus of soldiers rolls past on its way to the front line, they steel themselves for what awaits.

    Having beaten back hundreds of Hamas fighters after a long, brutal fight on the border with Gaza, as Israeli soldiers carried out the grim job of clearing victims homes, they found a new source of terror. In the villages that were attacked by Hamas on Saturday, the Israel Defense Force found a huge cache of weaponry, thousands of pieces, and they suspect that Hamas planned a much longer fight.

    Scattered amidst the carnage, hand grenades, anti-tank mines, artillery rounds, North Korean-manufactured rocket propelled grenades, improvised rocket launchers, and, vitally, Iranian-made mortar rounds, the first material evidence that Iran is directly supplying weaponry to Hamas in this fight.

  • Soldier:

    This is made in Iran, no doubt about it. We knew they had those. We knew they had mortars, but these Iranian mortars, this is the first time we have seen it on this battle.

  • Leila Molana-Allen:

    It's taken bomb squads more than a week to safely disarm all these munitions. And now here they sit, deep in an Israeli base, a testament to the sheer scale of the firepower Hamas has stockpiled.

    As Israel plans its attack on the miles-long network of Hamas tunnels that lie beneath Gaza, its soldiers can only imagine how much more awaits them there. But sitting above those weapon-stacked tunnels are defenseless civilians. For days, crowds of Palestinian dual nationals have waited anxiously at the Rafah Border Crossing with Egypt.

    With Gaza under constant bombardment and under siege, this is their only escape route.

    Journalist Qassem Al-Katharna holds American citizenship.

  • Qassem Al-Katharna, Displaced Palestinian:

    This is war in Gaza. This is war in the people, the people who are suffering, not the military. We have to leave your mother, your sisters, your neighbors. It's the worst travel in my life to leave right now.

  • Leila Molana-Allen:

    Mahmoud and his daughter hold Swedish nationality. They have been trying to get out of Gaza since Saturday.

  • Mahmoud Abu-Musalam, Displaced Palestinian (through interpreter):

    My daughter saw people die, saw children die. We have been sleeping here at the crossing point. There is shelling from every side and every corner.

  • Leila Molana-Allen:

    The Rafah Border Crossing in Southern Gaza is controlled by Egypt. It's a vital link between Gaza and the rest of the world.

    But it was shut down nearly a week ago after being hit by an Israeli airstrike. Since then, no one has been allowed to leave, and desperately needed humanitarian aid has stopped trickling in.

    Antony Blinken, U.S. Secretary of State: Rafah will be open.

  • Leila Molana-Allen:

    U.S. officials hoped the crossing would open today for a few hours, but talks with Israel and Egypt to reopen it have so far failed.

    Sameh Shoukry is Egypt's foreign minister.

  • Sameh Shoukry, Egyptian Foreign Minister (through interpreter):

    The Israeli government has not taken a decision that leads to the possibility of opening the Rafah Border Crossing from Gaza's side.

  • Leila Molana-Allen:

    A few miles north of Rafah, in the city of Khan Yunis, there is no letup in the Israeli bombardment. Before the war, the city was home to about 400,000 Palestinians, now more than a million after Israel ordered people to evacuate south.

    With hundreds of thousands displaced, a fast-growing humanitarian crisis has erupted. These men do what they can to feed fellow civilians. With no fuel left, thanks to the blockade, they cook with firewood.

  • Mohammed Jameel Abu Assi, Khan Yunis, Gaza Strip, Resident (through interpreter):

    There is no stove, and we barely can find firewood. I kept telling people they have to wait to eat.

  • Leila Molana-Allen:

    Against this backdrop, Secretary of State Antony Blinken was back in Israel today after meeting with leaders across the Middle East to try and stop the conflict spreading through the region.

    But speaking to Israel's defense minister, Yoav Gallant, today, he emphasized U.S. support was rock-solid.

  • Antony Blinken:

    You know our deep commitment to Israel's right and, indeed, its obligation to defend itself and to defend its people.

  • Leila Molana-Allen:

    On Israel's border with Lebanon, tensions are high. The militant group Hezbollah released video of themselves destroying Israeli surveillance cameras.

    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the Israeli Parliament today.

  • Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Prime Minister (through interpreter):

    I have message to Iran and Hezbollah: Don't test us on northern border. Don't get back to the mistake that you did once, because, today, the price that you will pay will be more expensive.

  • Leila Molana-Allen:

    As violence escalates, the State Department has began evacuating American citizens from Israel by sea.

    And that violence is escalating fast. Today saw hundreds more rockets fall on both sides of the Gaza border and exchanges of fire across the northern border with Lebanon, even as Iran's foreign minister warned that the country might now retaliate against Israel even before a ground invasion of Gaza — Geoff.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    And, Leila, you were down near Gaza today.

    Give us a sense of what the preparations for this Israeli ground invasion look like.

  • Leila Molana-Allen:

    Well, as you saw there, just a staggering amount of armor and artillery being shipped into the south of the country, and, of course, hundreds of thousands of these soldiers who've been called up really walking down the highway with their packs, jumping into army jeeps, just being shipped out onto different border posts, but also the evacuations because, of course, these areas are already being hit with so many rockets.

    And now, if there's going to be a full-scale war, they need to get people out, some people willing to go, some people desperate to stay, saying, where on earth would I go? I have lived here all my life.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    So what then are the options for Gaza now and the people there trying to escape?

  • Leila Molana-Allen:

    Well, there are two issues here.

    The first is what to do right now with this humanitarian crisis that's brewing in the south of Gaza. People were told they have to move down to the south of Gaza. That's where they will be safe. Even as they started to move a couple of days ago, convoys were hit by airstrikes on the road as families tried to flee.

    Then they were told to go down to the south, and they were told that there was a small pocket around the Rafah Crossing that would be a humanitarian zone. They approached it, and there was a strike on the Rafah Crossing. Now the Rafah Hospital has been told to evacuate. And they have already got people coming from all the other hospitals in Gaza.

    Khan Yunis, the biggest city in the south of Gaza, is being struck every day, even though hundreds of thousands people that have evacuated there. This is not sustainable. They need to find a way to make these people safe and find somewhere that they can go, where they have been told to go and stay there.

    The next issue is what happens is if there is a full ground invasion. Currently, the Egyptians saying no way that they will open the crossing, the Rafah Crossing, for everyone, only for foreign nationals. But that hasn't even happened yet.

    If they can at least get Palestinians with foreign passports out, that will be a significant reduction. Thousands of people will be able to get to safety. Can they build a huge refugee camp around the Rafah Crossing? The Egyptians would have to agree. The U.N. would have to get involved, of course, great concern, already one-and-a-half-million Palestinians living in refugee camps around the region.

    They don't want another one. And, finally, there's the existential issue. Many people are concerned that this is going to be a version of ethnic cleansing, that, if people leave Gaza, they will never be able to come back. They will use their land forever, and they're terrified about that.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    Leila Molana-Allen joining us again tonight from Tel Aviv.

    Leila, thank you.

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