Tensions rising in Gaza: the situation in four maps

By Explainer reporter Jackson Graham and the Visual Stories Team

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Palestinians are fleeing their homes in the north of the Gaza Strip, heeding warnings from Israel to move to the enclave’s south. Israel’s military has pledged to “demolish Hamas” but its next steps towards an anticipated ground invasion are not yet clear.

Meanwhile, a humanitarian crisis is unfolding in Gaza. Amid shortages of water and other supplies in the south, UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres says the situation is “on the verge of the abyss”.

Helping find a plan to get aid into the strip will be among the concerns for US President Joe Biden when he visits Israel on Wednesday, as well as working to prevent the conflict from spreading in the region.

Here’s where things are at.

Israel’s military has evacuated 28 communities within two kilometres of the border with Lebanon, after fighting between it and Hezbollah, the political party and militant group that controls southern Lebanon. Hezbollah – backed by Iran and designated a terrorist organisation by the United States, Australia and other nations – has said it has started to destroy Israeli border surveillance cameras. “Don’t test us in the north,” Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned in recent days. Israel and Lebanon last fought a war in 2006.

Meanwhile, violence has increased in the already volatile, Israeli-occupied West Bank (so named because it is on the west bank of the Jordan River) with Palestinians killed and many more wounded in clashes.

And the US has deployed aircraft carriers with planes and escort ships to the eastern Mediterranean in what it says is a deterrent against the conflict spreading; while, in Syria, Israeli missiles have hit two airports, says Syrian state media. Israel has accused Iran of supplying weapons via Syria.

The Israeli military says 600,000 Palestinians have evacuated since it warned civilians to get out of a broad region north of the Wadi Gaza river. This area, which includes Gaza City, is home to 1.1 million people.

Israel has fired thousands of missiles into the Gaza Strip following the brutal attacks by Hamas militants in which 1400 Israelis have died. Israel has been targeting Hamas command centres as well as the group’s tunnel network and weapons storage facilities. The Gaza Health Ministry says 2750 Palestinians have been killed since the air strikes started.

Nearly half of Gaza’s population are children, according Palestinian Bureau of Statistics. Most of its more than 2 million people are refugees.

Israel and Egypt have imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip, limiting the movement of people and goods since 2007. Even before this conflict, Palestinians could not easily leave Gaza into Egypt, usually waiting two to four weeks for registration with local authorities, the UN says. The three crossings in and out have been inaccessible in the days following Hamas’ attack.

Israel controls the Erez Crossing in the north, usually for eligible internationals and Palestinians – such as traders, labourers and patients – to travel between the enclave and Israel. The Erez Crossing was among sites where Hamas militants broke through Israel’s fortified barrier surrounding Gaza before launching their attack on civilians.

An entry and exit point for authorised goods in the south, the Kerem Shalom crossing, is also closed and under Israeli control.

The main “lifeline” into Gaza is a crossing near the city of Rafah into Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. The situation is fast-moving, and the Egyptian government says whether it remains open or not depends on talks with Israel.

Aid convoy trucks linked up at the Rafah Crossing on October 17.Credit: Getty

A truck convoy carrying hundreds of tonnes of aid from the UN is parked on the Egyptian side of the Rafah border. The goods include food, gloves, tents, blankets and medicines. Aid facilities in the south of Gaza are swamped.

There are 45 Australians known to be in the Gaza Strip, including families and children. Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles said the federal government was working on getting them to safety.

Marles said a humanitarian corridor through Rafah “would provide the key answer for those Australians who are in this situation”.

Washington has also been focused on getting some of the few hundred Gazans with US passports out of the enclave if the Rafah Crossing opens briefly.

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