On day 100 of the war on Gaza, Israel’s relentless bombardment of the besieged Gaza Strip continues with no sign of easing, amid a growing humanitarian catastrophe and the looming threat of a regional spillover.
At least 23,968 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, have been killed since the war began on October 7, after Hamas fighters carried out an assault on southern Israel that killed 1,139 there. Israel said about 240 people were also taken captive.
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has promised to “continue [the war] until victory”, saying in a televised address late on Saturday that “it is possible and necessary”.
“No one will stop us – not The Hague, not the Axis of Evil and no one else,” Netanyahu said, in reference to a case that South Africa brought to the International Court of Justice seeking emergency measures to halt Israel’s war, and in reference to the Iran-aligned “axis of resistance” groups in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen.
The war has been by far the bloodiest and most destructive episode of fighting in the decades-long conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.
‘Staining our shared humanity’
In early January, Gaza’s media office said Israel had dropped more than 65,000 tonnes of bombs on the territory. Analysis of satellite data cited by the Associated Press shows that about 33 percent of buildings in the whole Strip have been destroyed.
The United Nations estimates that 1.9 million people, nearly 85 percent of the population, have been internally displaced, while more than 90 percent face acute food insecurity.
“The massive destruction, displacement, hunger and loss of last 100 days are staining our shared humanity,” the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) said on Sunday.
“The humanitarian operation has become one of the most complex & challenging in the world,” it added in a post on the social media platform X.
Palestine’s foreign ministry said that in 100 days, “the Israeli occupation has turned Gaza into an uninhabitable place, committed horrific crimes”. It added that “the international community was “again failing” to implement international resolutions related to the Palestinian cause.
Israeli authorities have set two main goals to claim victory: the destruction of Hamas and its capacity to rule Gaza, and the return of all captives, about 136 of whom still remain in Gaza.
Last week, the Israeli army said it was scaling down its operation in northern Gaza after having dismantled Hamas’s “military framework” there. It has also signalled it was shifting to a lower-intensity phase of the war.
Yet questions remain on how the military will conduct more targeted operations in the south after Israel forced more than a million people to evacuate there from the north.
Regarding the stated goal of bringing all captives back home, little progress has been made since a fragile truce in early December allowed the return of about 105 people. The issue is a thorny one within Israel, with relatives of those held inside Gaza pressuring the war cabinet to do more for their release.
Tens of thousands of people in Tel Aviv marked “100 days of hell” at rallies in Hostage Square on Saturday and Sunday. Families and supporters of the captives gathered to demand the release of the hostages.
“The families are absolutely desperate,” said Al Jazeera’s Sara Khairat, reporting from Tel Aviv. “They went from uniting here at the rallies every single Saturday, where tens of thousands of people have been showing up. Now the kind of rhetoric they’re using is ‘enough is enough’.”
On Sunday, a spokesman for Hamas’s armed wing meanwhile said the fate of many Israeli hostages has become unknown. In a televised address, Abu Ubaida said many of the hostages “may have been killed”, blaming their fate on Israel.
Risk of spillovers
As Israel bombards Gaza, it has also upped its raids and arrests on the occupied West Bank.
Tensions are also high with regional neighbours. The Lebanese group Hezbollah and the Israeli army have been engaged in near-daily exchanges of fire along Israel’s northern frontier with Lebanon. The killing of a Hamas senior leader in an alleged Israeli strike on Beirut also raised concerns about a wider conflict.
Meanwhile, from Yemen, Houthi rebels have started targeting international ships linked to Israel on the Red Sea – one of the most important routes for global commerce – promising not to stop until the war does.
In response to Houthi aggression, the United States and the United Kingdom have launched major strikes on Yemen’s soil.
Meanwhile, as the war drags on, there is little clarity on Israel’s vision for post-war Gaza.
The US has repeatedly insisted that it wants the Palestinian Authority to reform and then govern the Strip. But the body that rules parts of the occupied West Bank enjoys little support among Palestinians.