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GAZA STRIP, (Palestinian Territories): Israeli forces maintained a relentless bombardment and ground invasion across Gaza two months after Hamas’s deadly attack sparked a war that has decimated the Palestinian territory and triggered an extraordinary UN bid for a ceasefire on Friday.

The fighting has left 17,487 people dead in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the latest toll from the Hamas-run health ministry.

Israel has vowed to destroy Hamas over its unprecedented attack on October 7 when broke through Gaza’s militarised border to kill around 1,200 people and seize hostages, 138 of whom remain captive, according to Israeli figures.

Vast areas of Gaza have been reduced to a wasteland. The UN says about 80 percent of the population has been displaced, facing dire shortages of food, fuel, water and medicine, and the growing threat of disease.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres invoked the rarely-used Article 99 of the UN Charter to convene an emergency Security Council meeting on the war.

He called for the release of hostages, but said “the brutality perpetrated by Hamas can never justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people”.

The World Health Organization reinforced his warning.

“People are starting to cut down telephone poles to have a little bit of firewood to keep warm or maybe cook, if they have anything available,” WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier said. “Civilisation is about to break down.”

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said the Security Council was “complicit in the ongoing slaughter” and must vote to “lift the siege” on Gaza.

Israel’s military said it had struck 450 targets in Gaza over 24 hours, showing footage of strikes from naval vessels in the Mediterranean.

The Hamas health ministry reported 40 dead near Gaza City in the north, and dozens more in Jabalia and the main southern city of Khan Yunis.

“May God punish those who can see our suffering and remain calm,” said one Gazan, Rimah Mansi, who told AFP they had lost “all those we love”.

Israel has lost 91 soldiers in Gaza. It said two others were wounded in a failed bid to rescue hostages overnight, and that “numerous terrorists” were killed in the operation.

Hamas claimed a hostage was killed in the operation, and released a video purporting to show the body, which could not be independently verified.

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