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Israel strikes Gaza as pressure mounts to protect civilians

2023-12-03 11:56
Israel carried out bombardments in Gaza on Sunday as international calls mounted for greater protection of civilians and the renewal of an expired truce...
Israel strikes Gaza as pressure mounts to protect civilians

Israel carried out bombardments in Gaza on Sunday as international calls mounted for greater protection of civilians and the renewal of an expired truce with Palestinian militant group Hamas.

The Israeli army said it has conducted more than 400 strikes in Gaza since a ceasefire collapsed on Friday, while Hamas announced "rocket barrages" against multiple Israeli towns and cities including Tel Aviv.

Israeli strikes hit the Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza late Saturday, killing at least 13 people, according to the official Palestinian news agency Wafa.

United States Vice President Kamala Harris sharply rebuked on Saturday the rising civilian toll in Israel's eight-week war, which was sparked by an unprecedented attack on October 7.

"Too many innocent Palestinians have been killed," she told reporters at UN climate talks in Dubai.

"Frankly, the scale of civilian suffering and the images and videos coming from Gaza are devastating."

According to the United Nations, an estimated 1.7 million people in Gaza -- more than two-thirds of the population -- have been displaced by eight weeks of war.

Fadel Naim, chief doctor at the Al-Ahli Arab hospital in Gaza City, said his morgue had received 30 bodies on Saturday, including seven children.

"The planes bombed our houses: three bombs, three houses destroyed," Nemr al-Bel, 43, told AFP, adding he had counted 10 dead in his family and "13 more still under the rubble".

Gazans are short of food, water and other essentials, and many homes have been destroyed. UN agencies have declared a humanitarian catastrophe, although some aid trucks did arrive Saturday.

The Palestine Red Crescent Society said Israel had told NGOs not to bring aid convoys across the Rafah border crossing from Egypt after the truce expired.

But on Saturday, the charity said its Egyptian colleagues had managed to send over a number of trucks.

- Israel withdraws negotiators -

Hamas fighters broke through Gaza's militarised border into Israel on October 7, killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took around 240 Israelis and foreigners hostage, according to Israeli authorities.

Israel vowed to eliminate Hamas in response and unleashed an air and ground campaign that has killed more than 15,000 people, also mostly civilians, the Hamas authorities who run Gaza say.

A week-long truce, brokered with the help of Qatar and backed by Egypt and the United States, led to the release of 80 Israeli hostages in exchange for 240 Palestinian prisoners.

But that truce collapsed with both sides blaming each other for violating its conditions.

Israel said that Hamas had tried to fire a rocket before the ceasefire ended, and that it had failed to produce a list of further hostages for release.

Israeli negotiators left Doha on Saturday after reaching a dead end in talks aimed at securing a fresh pause in hostilities.

The Israeli army on Saturday said 137 hostages were still being held in Gaza.

Israel's Defence Minister Yoav Gallant told reporters on Saturday that fresh military action was needed to "create the conditions that push (Hamas) to pay a heavy price, and that is in the release of hostages".

Israeli hostages released from Gaza spoke publicly on Saturday for the first time uring their government to secure the release of the remaining captives held in the war-torn Palestinian territory.

"The moral obligation of this government is to bring them home immediately, without hesitation," said Yocheved Lifschitz, 85, who was released by Hamas in October, before the truce deal. 

French President Emmanuel Macron appealed for "stepped-up efforts to reach a lasting ceasefire" to free all hostages, allow in more aid and to assure Israel of its security.

He took issue with Israel's stated war aims, warning that if the "total destruction of Hamas" in Gaza was the goal, "the war will last 10 years".

- 'Total victory' -

But speaking in Tel Aviv later on Saturday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the war would continue "until we achieve all its aims" including eliminating the Islamist movement.

"Our soldiers prepared during the days of truce for total victory against Hamas," he said at his first press conference since fighting resumed.

"There is no way to win except by continuing the ground campaign," Netanyahu told reporters, underscoring that this would be done while "observing international law".

Israel's air, naval and ground forces have attacked more than 400 targets in Gaza since the end of the ceasefire, the army said on Saturday. 

The figure is roughly in line with the daily average number of strikes prior to the pause, according to military figures released previously.

Warplanes hit "more than 50 targets in an extensive attack in the Khan Yunis area" of southern Gaza, according to the military.

Separately, members of an Israeli armoured brigade "eliminated terrorist squads and directed fire against terrorist targets in the north of the Gaza Strip", the military said.

In the occupied West Bank, the Israeli army said troops shot dead a Palestinian at a checkpoint near the city of Nablus after he "drew a knife and started to advance towards them."

Syria said Israel carried out air strikes near Damascus on Saturday. 

Iran's Revolutionary Guard accused Israel of killing two of its members in Syria who it said had been on an "advisory mission".

Hamas in October last year said it had restored relations with Syria's government.

Israeli attacks on targets in Syria have intensified since the Israel-Hamas war began.