‘Relentless’ bombardments hit Gaza Strip
Israeli warplanes struck parts of the Gaza Strip overnight into Saturday in relentless bombardments, including some of the dwindling slivers of land Palestinians had been told to evacuate to in the territory’s south.
The latest strikes came a day after the United States vetoed a United Nations resolution demanding an immediate humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza, despite it being backed by the vast majority of Security Council members and many other nations. The vote in the 15-member council was 13-1, with the United Kingdom abstaining.
“Attacks from air, land and sea are intense, continuous and widespread,” UN
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said before the vote. Gaza residents “are being told to move like human pinballs – ricocheting between ever-smaller slivers of the south, without any of the basics for survival.”
Guterres told the council that Gaza was at “a breaking point” with the humanitarian support system at risk of total collapse, and that he feared “the consequences could be devastating for the security of the entire region.”
In response to the US vetoing the resolution, Hamas branded the nation’s decision ‘inhumane’.
No escape for many Palestinians
Gaza’s borders with Israel and with Egypt are effectively sealed, leaving Palestinians with no option other than to try to seek refuge within the territory.
The overall death toll in Gaza since the start of the war has surpassed 17,400, the majority of them women and children, according to the Health Ministry in Hamas-controlled Gaza, which does not differentiate between civilians and combatants in its count.
Israel holds Hamas responsible for civilian casualties, accusing the militants of using civilians as human shields, and says it’s made considerable efforts with its evacuation orders to get civilians out of harm’s way.
On Saturday, Gaza residents reported airstrikes and shelling in the northern part of the strip as well as in the south, including the city of Rafah, which lies near the Egyptian border and where the Israeli army had ordered civilians to evacuate to.
The main hospital in the central city of Deir al-Balah received the bodies of 71 people killed in bombings in the area over the past 24 hours, the Health Ministry said Saturday morning. The hospital also received 160 wounded, the ministry said. In the southern city of Khan Younis, the bodies of 62 people and another 99 wounded were taken to Nasser Hospital over the past 24 hours, the ministry said.
Why has there been no ceasefire – or renewed truce agreement?
More than 2,200 Palestinians have been killed since the collapse of the truce on 1 December.
About two-thirds of that number were women and children, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry.
Despite growing international pressure, the Biden administration remains opposed to an open-ended cease-fire, arguing it would enable Hamas to survive and pose a threat to Israel.
Officials have expressed misgivings in recent days about the rising civilian death toll and dire humanitarian crisis, but have not pushed publicly for Israel to wind down the war, now in its third month.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has argued a cease-fire would be a victory for Hamas. “A cease-fire is handing a prize to Hamas, dismissing the hostages held in Gaza, and signalling terror groups everywhere,” he said.
As fighting resumed after a brief truce more than a week ago, the US urged Israel to do more to protect civilians and allow more aid to besieged Gaza. The appeals came as Israel expanded its blistering air and ground campaign into southern Gaza, especially the southern city of Khan Younis, sending tens of thousands more fleeing.
Airstrikes were reported overnight in the Nuseirat refugee camp, where resident Omar Abu Moghazi said a strike hit a family home, causing casualties.
There were also airstrikes and shelling in Gaza City and other northern parts of the strip.