Israel Continues Strikes In Gaza Despite International Calls To Halt War

Israel on Tuesday kept up its strikes against Gaza targets despite grave concern expressed by the United Nations, and international calls for a halt to the Israel-Hamas war.

Israel Continues Strikes In Gaza Despite International Calls To Halt War

Israel on Tuesday kept up its strikes against Gaza targets despite grave concern expressed by the United Nations, and international calls for a halt to the Israel-Hamas war.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu again vowed there would be no peace until the destruction of Hamas, the Islamist movement that rules Gaza, and the military said the war would last months.

Israel's army said it struck military sites and tunnel shafts in Jabalia, northern Gaza, as well as in Khan Yunis in the south, as heavy ground combat continued.

Black smoke clouded the sky over central Gaza on Tuesday afternoon and, in the south, horse-drawn carts carried some victims to hospital in Khan Yunis, AFP images showed.

The withering military campaign in Gaza, launched after unprecedented Hamas attacks against southern Israeli communities on October 7, has caused mass civilian casualties, widespread hunger and reduced much of the coastal territory to rubble.

Internet and telephone services were again cut across the Palestinian territory, "due to the ongoing offensive," announced Gaza's main telecoms firm, Paltel.

"We are gravely concerned about the continued bombardment of Middle Gaza by Israeli forces," Seif Magango, spokesman for the United Nations Human Rights Office, said in a statement.

"It is particularly concerning that this latest intense bombardment comes after Israeli forces ordered residents from the south of Wadi Gaza to move to Middle Gaza and Tal al-Sultan in Rafah."

Netanyahu, however, reiterated Israel would stay the course.

"Hamas must be destroyed, Gaza must be demilitarised and Palestinian society must be deradicalised," he argued in a Wall Street Journal op-ed published late Monday. 

"These are the three prerequisites for peace", he wrote.

On Tuesday Israel's army chief Herzi Halevi told a news conference that the war "will continue for many more months", a point made earlier this month by Defence Minister Yoav Gallant who said "it will last more than several months".

The bloodiest ever Gaza war erupted when Hamas gunmen attacked Israel and killed about 1,140 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures.

They took 250 hostages of whom 129 remain inside Gaza, Israel says.

Israel retaliated with a relentless bombardment and a siege followed by a ground invasion. The campaign has killed at least 20,915 people, mostly women and children, according to the latest toll issued Tuesday by Gaza's health ministry.

Watching a child die

The army says 158 Israeli soldiers have been killed inside Gaza.

AFPTV images from Gaza City's devastated and largely deserted Tal al-Hawa area showed dirt roads winding through mountains of rubble amid multi-storey buildings pancaked by strikes or standing askew.

"The destruction is very great, and all the owners of the place have been displaced to the south," said one Palestinian man. "May God help people through the misfortunes they are in."

Some residents of Al-Maghazi refugee camp in central Gaza returned to the ruins of their homes after strikes that Gaza's health ministry said killed at least 70 people. AFP was unable to independently verify that toll.

Sean Casey, a World Health Organization Emergency Medical Teams coordinator, was part of a WHO mission to the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in central Gaza's Deir al-Balah city after the refugee camp strikes.

In a video shot inside the hospital, Casey appeared to be fighting back tears as he described a nine-year-old boy, Ahmed, "being treated basically with sedation to ease his suffering as he dies", after receiving a head wound when a building was struck.

Only a minority of Gaza's hospitals are even partly functioning, says the WHO, whose Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus repeated his "call for an immediate ceasefire".

The Israeli army said it was "reviewing the incident" at Al-Maghazi and added it is "committed to international law including taking feasible steps to minimise harm to civilians".

Israel has been under increasing pressure from its allies to protect non-combatants.

US-Israeli consultations

Gaza's 2.4 million people are enduring dire shortages of water, food, fuel and medicine, with only limited aid entering.

An estimated 1.9 million Gazans have been displaced, according to the UN, many having fled south.

Netanyahu told members of his conservative Likud party on Monday that he was ready to support the voluntary migration of civilians out of the Gaza Strip, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.

He reportedly told party members "our problem is not whether to allow an exit, but that there will be countries that are willing to absorb an exit".

In a statement, Hamas rejected as "absurd" any such discussion. "There can't be exile and there is no other choice than to remain on our land."

United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said the idea of pushing Palestinians into Egypt "is a nonstarter".

Blinken was meeting on Tuesday with Israel's Minister of Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer and US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan "for face-to-face consultations on a number of matters related to the conflict in Gaza and the return of hostages held by Hamas", National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said.

The war has stoked regional tensions.

Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said an Israeli air strike in Syria killed the senior Quds Force commander Razi Moussavi. President Ebrahim Raisi vowed Israel "will certainly pay for this crime".

Explosions were heard and missiles sighted near a vessel transiting the Red Sea off Yemen's port of Hodeida, which is controlled by Iran-backed rebels, the Royal Navy's United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) said, reporting the latest incident in the waterway vital for global trade.

In Iraq, the US military launched strikes on pro-Iran groups it has blamed for numerous attacks on US and allied forces since the Israel-Hamas war began. The strike claimed at least one life, according to Iraqi authorities.

An anti-tank missile fired by Lebanon's Hezbollah movement wounded nine soldiers as they rescued a civilian injured in another cross-border strike, Israel's military said.

Violence has also surged in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where two Palestinians were killed on Tuesday.