Israeli military planes struck parts of the Gaza Strip in relentless bombardments on Saturday, hitting some of the dwindling patches of land to which they had asked Palestinians to evacuate in the territory’s south.
The strikes came a day after the United States vetoed a United Nations resolution demanding an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza, despite its broad support. The vote in the 15-member Security Council was 13-1, with the United Kingdom abstaining.
“Air, land and sea attacks are intense, continuous and widespread,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the council before the vote. Gazans “are asked to move like human pinball machines, ricocheting between smaller and smaller fragments of the south, without any of the basics of survival.”
Gaza is at a “breaking point”, with the humanitarian support system at risk of collapse, and Guterres has said he fears “the consequences will be devastating for the security of the entire region”.
Gaza’s borders with Israel and Egypt are effectively closed, leaving 2.3 million Palestinians with no choice but to seek refuge in the 25 mile (40 kilometer) long by about 7 mile (11 kilometer) wide territory. .
As the war now enters its third month, the Palestinian death toll in Gaza has exceeded 17,400, the majority of them women and children, according to the Hamas-controlled territory’s Health Ministry, whose tallies do not make no distinction between civilians and combatants.
Two hospitals in central and southern Gaza received the bodies of a total of 133 victims of Israeli bombing over the past 24 hours, the Health Ministry announced at midday on Saturday.
Israel holds Hamas militants responsible for civilian casualties, accusing them of using civilians as human shields, and says it went to considerable lengths to issue evacuation orders to keep civilians out of harm’s way. It says 93 Israeli soldiers died in the ground offensive after Hamas’ deadly raid in Israel on Oct. 7, which killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took about 240 hostages.
Hamas said Saturday it was continuing its rocket attacks on Israel.
In Gaza, residents reported airstrikes and shelling in the north and south, including in the town of Rafah near the Egyptian border, an area to which the Israeli military had ordered civilians to evacuate. In a colorful classroom, children’s tables up to their knees were littered with rubble.
“We now live in the Gaza Strip and are governed by the American law of the jungle. America has killed human rights,” said Rafah resident Abu Yasser al-Khatib. “The Palestinian people will not leave and do not want to leave. »
Israel-Hamas: US blocks UN Security Council ceasefire resolution
Israel is trying to guarantee military control over northern Gaza despite strong resistance from Hamas. Tens of thousands of residents are said to have remained despite evacuation orders, six weeks after the arrival of troops and tanks.
The Israeli military said Saturday that its forces fought and killed Hamas militants and found weapons at a school in Shijaia, a densely populated neighborhood of Gaza City. Soldiers discovered a tunnel shaft in the same neighborhood where they found an elevator, and in another incident, militants fired on soldiers at a UN-run school in the town of Beit Hanoun, in the north of the country.
More than 2,200 Palestinians have been killed since a week-long truce broke down on December 1, according to the Health Ministry in Gaza, in territory controlled by Hamas.
The truce allowed the release of Palestinian hostages and prisoners, but it is estimated that more than 130 hostages remain in Gaza.
On Saturday, a kibbutz attacked on October 7 said hostage Sahar Baruch, 25, had died in captivity. His captors said Baruch was killed during a failed rescue mission by Israeli forces on Friday. The Israeli military only confirmed that two soldiers were seriously injured during a hostage rescue attempt and that no hostages were freed.
With no new ceasefire in sight and sparse humanitarian aid reaching only a few areas of Gaza, residents have reported severe food shortages.
“I am very hungry,” said Mustafa al-Najjar, sheltering in a UN-run school in the devastated Jabaliya refugee camp in the north. “We live on canned goods and biscuits and that is not enough. »
Although adults can cope with hunger, “it is extremely difficult and painful to see your young son or daughter crying because they are hungry and there is nothing you can do,” he said.
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Despite growing international pressure, the Biden administration remains opposed to an indefinite ceasefire, arguing that it would allow Hamas to continue to pose a threat to Israel. Officials have expressed concerns in recent days about civilian deaths and the grave humanitarian crisis, but have not publicly pushed Israel to end the war.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said that “a ceasefire means rewarding Hamas, freeing hostages held in Gaza and reporting terrorist groups around the world.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken continued to meet with his counterparts in Saudi Arabia, Turkey and elsewhere as frustration grew over the U.S. position. Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan said the US veto of the Security Council resolution showed Washington’s isolation.
“From now on, humanity will no longer think that the United States supports the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a speech on Saturday.
Fidan and ministers from Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Nigeria, Indonesia, Egypt and Jordan met with Blinken to press for an end to the fighting, and the group was scheduled to meet with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Saturday.
Despite restrictions on protests, protesters at COP28 in Dubai called for a ceasefire.
Israel has expanded its horrific air and ground campaign into southern Gaza, forcing tens of thousands of people to flee.
“It was a night of heavy gunfire and shelling like every night,” Taha Abdel-Rahman, a resident of Khan Younis, said by telephone on Saturday.
Israel failed to heed warnings from female soldiers before Hamas attack, family of fallen soldier says
Airstrikes were reported overnight in the Nuseirat refugee camp, where resident Omar Abu Moghazi said a family home was hit, causing casualties.
Israel has designated a narrow strip of arid southern coast, Muwasi, as a security zone. But Palestinians described desperately overcrowded conditions, with little shelter and poor hygiene facilities.
“We live here in intense cold. There are no toilets,” said Soad Qarmoot, who was forced to leave her home in the northern town of Beit Lahiya.
“I have cancer,” Qarmoot said as the children huddled around a log fire. “I don’t have a mattress to sleep on. I sleep on the sand. It’s cold.”
Imad al-Talateeny, who fled Gaza City, said Muwasi lacks the basic services needed to accommodate the growing number of displaced families.
“I lack everything to feel human,” he said.