GAZA STRIP, Palestinian Territories: Israeli forces on Sunday fought Palestinian around southern Gaza’s main city, as the UN chief decried divisions that had “paralysed” the Security Council’s response to the over two-months-old war.
Hamas said Sunday that Israel had launched “very violent raids” targeting the biggest southern city of Khan Yunis and the road from there to Rafah, near the border with Egypt.
Amid dire warnings of food shortages and mass displacement in Gaza as a winter chill sets in, Bushra Khalidi of aid group Oxfam warned that the plight of trapped Palestinians “is not just a catastrophe, it’s apocalyptic”.
A source close to Hamas AFP both groups were engaged in “fierce clashes” with Israeli forces near Khan Yunis, where an AFP journalist also reported heavy strikes.
Palestinian reported fighting in Jabalia and Gaza City’s Shejaiya district in northern Gaza, while the Israeli army said early Sunday it had struck “over 250 terror targets” in the previous 24 hours.
Overnight strikes hit “a Hamas military communications site” and “underground tunnel shafts” in southern Gaza, as well as a Hamas military command centre in Shejaiya, an army statement said.
The fighting has killed at least 17,700 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.
Israel has vowed to eradicate Hamas after the group’s unprecedented attacks on October 7 when its fighters broke through Gaza’s border, killed about 1,200 people and seized hostages, according to Israeli officials.
Israel on Saturday said 137 captives remained in the Palestinian territory. Hundreds of Israelis rallied again in Tel Aviv, holding placards with the messages “bring them home now” and “they trust us to get them out of hell”. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he regretted the Security Council’s failure to offer solutions to the war, two days after a US veto prevented a resolution calling for a ceasefire.
Addressing Qatar’s Doha Forum, Guterres said the body’s “authority and credibility were severely undermined” by its delayed response to the conflict.
“Regrettably, the Security Council failed” to call for a ceasefire, he added. “I can promise, I will not give up.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed Saturday Israel will continue its “just war to eliminate” Hamas while army chief Herzi Halevi urged his forces to “press harder” in their campaign against the group.
The head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees meanwhile sounded the alarm over what he feared would be a mass expulsion of Palestinians into Egypt.
In an opinion piece Saturday in the Los Angeles Times, UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini said “the developments we are witnessing point to attempts to move Palestinians into Egypt”.
Responding to the accusation, an Israeli spokesman said: “There is not, never was and never will be an Israeli plan to move the residents of Gaza to Egypt.”
Aid groups have warned that Gaza is on the brink of being overwhelmed by disease and starvation.
The UN humanitarian agency OCHA said 100 trucks carrying aid entered Gaza via Rafah on Saturday, “well below” the daily average before the war.
In Gaza City, an AFP journalist said thousands were sheltering in the Al-Shifa hospital, which was partly destroyed following an Israeli raid last month.
Hundreds of makeshift tents fashioned from fabric and plastic filled the hospital’s courtyards amid collapsed walls.
Suheil Abu Dalfa, 56, from Shejaiya, said he had fled heavy bombardment by Israeli planes and tanks.
“Everything was just strikes and destruction… we didn’t know where to go,” he told AFP.
An estimated 1.9 million of Gaza’s 2.4 million people have been displaced, according to UN figures, many now in the south and running out of safe places to go.
- ‘Dozens’ detained -
The UN children’s agency, UNICEF, said nearly one million children had been displaced.
“They are now being pushed further and further south into tiny, overcrowded areas without water, food or protection,” said Adele Khodr of UNICEF.
“The restrictions and challenges being placed on the delivery of lifesaving aid… are another death sentence for children.”
OCHA reported that Israeli forces on Saturday “detained dozens of Palestinian men and boys” in the northern city of Beit Lahia.
Israeli media have reported that Hamas had surrendered to Israeli forces in several locations across Gaza.
Footage published by Israeli media showed groups of men stripped down to their underwear, with some appearing to hand over weapons.
The army said that “it is often necessary for terror suspects to hand over their clothes … to ensure that they are not concealing explosive vests or other weaponry”.
National Security Advisor Tzachi Hanegbi told Israeli TV that 7,000 “terrorists” had been killed, without elaborating on the source.
The Israeli army says it had lost 97 soldiers in the Gaza campaign, with two others wounded in a failed bid to rescue hostages late Thursday.
Hamas said one captive, Sahar Baruch, 25, was killed in the operation. His death was later confirmed by his kibbutz community of Beeri, one of the worst hit on October 7.
However, a one-week truce that collapsed on December 1 saw 105 hostages freed, including 80 Israelis released in exchange for 240 Palestinian prisoners.
Mediator Qatar said on Sunday efforts to secure a new truce and release more hostages were ongoing despite sustained Israeli bombardment which was “narrowing the window” for a successful outcome.
“We are not going to give up,” Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani told the Doha Forum.
The fighting in Gaza has spurred fears of a wider regional conflict. Yemen’s Iran-backed Huthi rebels threatened to attack any vessels heading to Israel unless more food and medicine are allowed into Gaza.
The French military said Sunday one of its frigates had shot down two drones in the Red Sea that were heading towards the vessel from the coast of Yemen.
The Israeli army said two of its soldiers were “moderately injured” at the border with Lebanon as the military intercepted two “suspicious aerial targets”.