A spokesperson for the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza said Friday that seven hospitals and 21 primary care health centers had been rendered “out of service,” and 64 medical staff have been killed, as Israel continues its airstrikes on Gaza.
“It is absolutely life or death at this point,” Avril Benoit, executive director for Doctors Without Borders, also known as Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), told CNN.
Among those trapped in Gaza are the hostages captured by Hamas during its brutal terror attack on October 7. In an update Friday the Israel Defense Forces said the majority of the hostages are alive. It said the number of missing is between 100-200, and more than 20 of the hostages are under the age of 18.
Meanwhile, Israeli leaders have rallied troops ahead of a potential ground incursion. The IDF has mobilized more than 300,000 reservists as it seeks to “destroy” Hamas and prevent it from launching further attacks on Israeli soil.
In a speech from the Oval Office Thursday, US President Joe Biden reiterated his government’s support for Israel’s war against Hamas, casting it as vital to America’s national security. But he cautioned the Israeli government not to be “blinded by rage” and drew a clear distinction between Hamas and the Palestinian people, calling for civilians in Gaza to be protected.
Any Israeli ground incursion will come amid a growing chorus of outrage across the Arab world, where mass anti-Israel protests have broken out earlier in the week and on Friday in support of 2.2 million Palestinians who remain trapped in Gaza.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned the Middle East had entered “a moment of profound crisis… unlike any the region has seen in decades.”
Israeli leaders on Friday ordered the evacuation of some 23,000 residents living near the border with Lebanon, amid sustained crossfire with the Iran-backed militant group Hezbollah. IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Peter Lerner told CNN that the IDF had bolstered its forces along the northern border and was prepared for a “broader conflict.”
Aid supplies in limbo
Around 200 trucks carrying vital aid destined for Gaza remain stuck in Egypt, despite a frantic diplomatic effort to open the Rafah crossing. Negotiations continued through Thursday as workers filled dangerous road craters from Israeli bombing to allow up to 20 trucks to pass in an initial delivery.
Video released Friday by the Sinai Foundation for Human Rights showed “repair work and paving the road between the Egyptian and Palestinian sides” at the Rafah crossing. Egyptian authorities worked to remove cement blocks at the entrance to the crossing in preparation for its opening, several drivers at the crossing told CNN.