The toll of Palestinians killed in Israeli strikes on the GazaStrip since war broke out between Israel and Hamas in October has passed 25 000, Gaza health officials said, while Israeli attacks and street battles raged across the Hamas-run enclave on Sunday.
Israeli forces and Hamas fighters clashed in several places, from Jabalia in the north to Khan Younis in the south, the focus of recent Israeli operations.
Israel said its troops had cleared much of northern Gaza of Hamas’ military network and more than a million residents of that part of the enclave have moved south to flee the bombardments. However fighting has continued in the Jabalia refugee camp and other areas around Gaza City. Gaza’s health ministry said 178 Palestinians were killed in the past 24 hours, one of the deadliest days of the war so far. Israel’s military said a soldier was killed in fighting.
A total of 25 105 Palestinians – many of them women and children – have been killed and 62 681 have been wounded in Israeli strikes since October 7, the ministry said in a statement. It does not differentiate between civilian and militant deaths but says most of those killed have been civilians. United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres on Sunday denounced Israel for what he called the “heartbreaking” deaths of Palestinian civilians in Gaza.
“Israel’s military operations have spread mass destruction and killed civilians on a scale unprecedented during my time as secretary-general,” Guterres said at a summit in the Ugandan capital Kampala.
Despite the huge death toll, the Israeli military has said it takes steps to avoid civilian casualties but it accuses Hamas of operating in densely populated areas and using civilians as human shields, a charge the Islamist group denies.
Most of the enclave’s 2.3 million people have been displaced from their homes. With large areas of the Gaza Strip razed to the ground and hospitals and humanitarian agencies struggling to cope, Palestinian described dire conditions.
“We struggle to survive bombs, but frankly we try to survive hunger more. Finding food for the family, for the children, has become a more challenging adventure than surviving war,” Amer, 32, a father of three from northern Gaza, told Reuters.
The price of flour, for example, has surged along with other food items that are hard to come by in the already impoverished territory.
“Amid the famine threatening residents of northern Gaza, the people began to grind what is available to make flour, starting with corn and reaching to animal food,” Anas Al-Sharif, a Palestinian freelance journalist reporting from northern Gaza, posted on X.
DIN OF BATTLE
Israel’s military said its soldiers had killed 15 Palestinian gunmen during fighting in the north while snipers, backed by air support, had killed a number of militants in Khan Younis.
Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri dismissed the Israeli account and the reported death toll.
Palestinians said fierce fighting has raged in Jabalia for the past three days. The noise of shelling from the air and the ground were non-stop, they said. Some buildings caught fire and smoke rose where bombs had fallen.
Along Gaza’s southern coast, witnesses said Israeli naval vessels shelled the beach.
In the southern city of Rafah, where more than a million displaced people are concentrated, three Palestinians were killed in an Israeli air strike on a car. Another car was hit in Gaza City, killing three people, health officials said.
Violence has also surged in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where Hamas’s rival the Palestinian Authority has limited self-rule. The Palestinian Health Ministry there said Israeli forces have killed 360 Palestinians since October 7.
PROLONG THE CONFLICT
The UN’s Guterres also said it was unacceptable to resist statehood for the Palestinian people and such a stance would indefinitely prolong a conflict.
His comments followed remarks by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu which appeared to rule out the so-called two-state solution to the decades-long Israel-Palestinian conflict – as urged by the United States and other governments.
Netanyahu’s office said that in talks with US President Joe Biden on Friday, the prime minister “reiterated his policy that after Hamas is destroyed Israel must retain security control over Gaza to ensure that Gaza will no longer pose a threat to Israel, a requirement that contradicts the demand for Palestinian sovereignty”.
Hamas for its part said the United States was ignoring Palestinian suffering and deaths while supporting Israeli actions financially and militarily.
“It was a defensive act in the frame of getting rid of the Israeli occupation, reclaiming the Palestinian rights and on the way for liberation and independence,” Hamas said.
The attacks, in which many women and children were killed and bodies mutilated, drew worldwide revulsion and condemnation.