Gaza and Jerusalem— 

Conditions in Gaza have deteriorated dangerously, experts say, with serious shortages of clean water and food as tens of thousands of Palestinians attempt to flee crippling airstrikes and an Israeli ground offensive.

Israel’s military said Saturday its forces are readying for the next stages of the war, including “combined and coordinated strikes from the air, sea and land” in response to the unprecedented October 7 terrorist attacks by the Islamist militant group Hamas, which controls the enclave.

At least 1,400 people were killed and many taken hostage during Hamas’ rampage, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) told CNN on Sunday, in what US President Joe Biden described as “the worst massacre of Jewish people since the Holocaust.”

Further escalation of the long-running conflict increasingly risks spilling over regionally, prompting the Pentagon to order a second carrier strike group and squadrons of fighter jets to the region as a deterrence to Iran and Iranian proxies, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon.

“We are on the verge of the abyss in the Middle East,” United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned in a statement Sunday.

He issued urgent appeals to Israel and Hamas: “To Hamas, the hostages must be released immediately without conditions. To Israel, rapid and unimpeded aid must be granted for humanitarian supplies and workers for the sake of the civilians in Gaza.”

“Each one of these two objectives are valid in themselves. They should not become bargaining chips and they must be implemented because it is the right thing to do,” he said.

For days, Israel has cut off the Gaza population’s access to electricity, food and water, prompting warnings of dire humanitarian crisis.

Pope Francis on Sunday also called for the establishment of humanitarian corridors in Gaza and for the release of hostages taken by Hamas.

People at the site of an Israeli rocket attack in Al- Shati refugee camp in the west of Gaza City on October 14.

People at the site of an Israeli rocket attack in Al- Shati refugee camp in the west of Gaza City on October 14.

In over a week of bombardment, Israeli airstrikes have killed least 2,670 people in Gaza, including hundreds of children, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.

Enter your email to sign up for CNN’s “Meanwhile in the Middle East” Newsletter.

close dialog

Casualties in the besieged strip over the past eight days have now surpassed the number of those killed during the 51-day Gaza-Israel conflict in 2014, a ministry spokesperson said.

A growing number of nations, global rights groups and organizations are calling on Israel to respect international rules of war, urging the protection of civilians’ lives, and not to target hospitals, schools and clinics in densely inhabited Gaza. Many families, some of whom were already internally displaced, are now crammed into an even smaller portion of the 140-square-mile territory.

Hamas rocket attacks on Israel have meanwhile continued into the weekend. A barrage on the city of Sderot saw residents being evacuated to other areas of the country on Sunday.

Calls for Israel to respect rules of war

Gaza is suffering shortages of every kind, including body bags, say aid groups. Internet access, through which residents communicate their plight to the world, is shrinking. Food stocks are dwindling, the World Food Programme has warned.

Hospitals have run out of painkillers and many Gazans are beginning to suffer from severe dehydration due to lack of drinking water, according to medical NGO Medecins sans Frontieres.

“The situation is very difficult…today for two hours we searched for drinkable water—even drinkable water is not available anymore,” said Dr. Mohammed Abu Mughaiseeb, the organization’s deputy medical coordinator in Gaza. “There is food. No electricity, no pumping of normal water as well, the hospitals are barely working… They are bombing all day. We don’t know what’s going to [happen] tomorrow and where we are going.”