Fatalities in last 24 hours come amid public anger over mistaken killing of three hostages by Israeli forces
Airstrikes in the Gaza Strip have killed at least 100 people over the last 24 hours, as Israel’s leadership faces growing international pressure for a ceasefire and calls at home to resume hostage negotiations after the Israeli army shot and killed three men kidnapped by Hamas.
The health ministry in the Hamas-run Palestinian territory said on Sunday that at least 90 people had been killed by Israeli bombardment in the Jabalia camp in the north, and another 12 had died in bombings in the central city of Deir al-Balah, as fighting was reported in several parts of Gaza.
There are growing signs that civil order is breaking down in the besieged Palestinian territory, which measures about 25 miles (40km) by 7.5 miles and is home to 2.3 million people. On Sunday, dozens of people raided lorries carrying aid after the vehicles entered Gaza through the Rafah crossing with Egypt. Some vehicles appeared to have been guarded by men with sticks, people on the ground said.
About 85% of the population have been displaced from their homes, some multiple times, while food, water, fuel and electricity remain scarce. Aid deliveries through the Kerem Shalom crossing with Israel resumed on Sunday for the first time since the war broke out, although aid agencies have warned that an expected doubling of the amount entering each day – 100 trucks – is still a fraction of what is needed to alleviate the dire humanitarian crisis.
Al Jazeera broadcast footage from the churned-up grounds of the Kamal Adwan hospital in Beit Lahia, in the north of Gaza, where it said injured and displaced people had been crushed by Israeli tanks overnight on Saturday. At least two bodies could be seen in the rubble and earth. The Israeli army said it had discovered weapons and arrested about 80 Hamas fighters at the hospital, without providing evidence.
A team from the World Health Organization that managed to deliver supplies to Gaza City’s al-Shifa hospital on Sunday described the medical complex as a “bloodbath”, with little water and food for the thousands of people using it as a shelter. A spokesperson said the organisation was “appalled by the effective destruction of Kamal Adwan hospital in northern #Gaza over the last several days”, adding: “Gaza’s health system was already on its knees, and the loss of another even minimally functioning hospital is a severe blow.
“Attacks on hospitals, health personnel and patients must end. Ceasefire now.”https://interactive.guim.co.uk/uploader/embed/2023/12/archive-zip/giv-134256z9Pj3DmRtrt/
Pope Francis on Sunday called for peace, speaking after the Latin patriarchate of Jerusalem said two Christian women at a church compound in Gaza were killed by Israeli sniper fire on Saturday.
Also on Sunday, France joined the UK and Germany in calling for an immediate truce in the 10-week-old conflict, which has killed more than 19,000 people. Israel declared war on Hamas after the Islamist group launched a devastating surprise attack on Israel on 7 October, killing 1,139 people and taking another 240 hostage.
During a visit to Israel, the French foreign minister, Catherine Colonna, said a ceasefire would allow more aid into Gaza, help secure the release of more hostages and move the parties towards “the beginning of a political solution”.
Paris joins London and Berlin, which also shifted their stances on the conflict on Saturday. The UK foreign secretary, David Cameron, and his German counterpart, Annalena Baerbock, called for a “sustainable” ceasefire and warned: “Too many civilians have been killed.”
The US, too, has been pressing Israel for weeks to scale back operations in Gaza and share solid plans for how the war will end and who it expects to control the area when the fighting stops, while still providing strong military and diplomatic cover. The defence secretary, Lloyd Austin, is the latest in a steady stream of senior US officials expected to visit Israel this week.
The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has repeatedly told his US allies that Israel will fight until “absolute victory against Hamas”, while his ministers have said the war could last another several months. Netanyahu has also said Israel will not countenance the possibility of Palestinian governance of Gaza in future.
Netanyahu renewed his pledge to bring back the estimated 129 Israelis still held hostage in Gaza in the face of public anger over the mistaken killing of three unarmed hostages by Israeli troops on Friday.
An Israeli military spokesperson said the shootings of the men, who appeared to have escaped their captors in Gaza City and were carrying a white flag, were against the army’s rules of engagement and were being investigated at the highest level.
In a sign of the anger and dismay, the brother of one of the hostages mistakenly killed lambasted the army for having “abandoned and murdered” him. “Those who abandoned you also murdered you after all that you did right,” said Ido Shamriz at his brother Alon’s funeral on Sunday in the Shefayim kibbutz, north of Tel Aviv, which was attended by dozens of relatives and family members.
Hundreds of protesters thronged outside Israel’s defence ministry in Tel Aviv on what is now a weekly Saturday night protest, demanding the resumption of internationally mediated talks for the return hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. The director of the Mossad spy agency, David Barnea, was reported to have visited Qatar, a key mediator with Hamas, over the weekend.
During a week-long ceasefire at the end of November, Hamas released 100 hostages, and in return 240 Palestinian women and children were freed from Israeli jails. Israel has rescued one hostage, killed three, and another six have been confirmed by Israeli officials as having died in captivity. A total of 119 soldiers have been killed in the 10-week-old war.
Also on Sunday, Israeli forces said they had uncovered the biggest Hamas tunnel in the Gaza Strip so far, designed to carry carloads of militant fighters from Gaza to the border with Israel. The entryway was said to be just a few hundred metres from the Erez border crossing, raising new questions about how Israeli surveillance missed preparations by Hamas for the its 7 October attacks.
The underground passage formed part of a wider branching network that stretched for more than 4km (2.5 miles) and came within 400 metres of the Erez border crossing, the army said.
It would have cost millions of dollars and taken years to construct, Israeli forces said, and the honeycomb of passageways featured a drainage system, electricity, ventilation, sewage, rails and communications networks.
Source : The Guardian