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Palestinians search for the bodies of Abdallah family after an Israeli strike in Nusseirat refugee camp, central Gaza Strip Alamy Stock Photo

Overwhelming majority of countries at UN General Assembly backs demand for ceasefire in Gaza

The vote comes as Israeli forces continued to battle Hamas militants today and bombed more targets in the devastated Gaza Strip.

LAST UPDATE | 12 Dec 2023

THE UN GENERAL Assembly has overwhelmingly passed a non-binding resolution demanding an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza – a call the paralysed Security Council has so far failed to make, piling pressure on Israel and Washington.

The body, which includes all 193 UN member nations, voted 153 in favor of the resolution, exceeding the 140 or so countries that have routinely backed resolutions condemning Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.

Ten countries, including the United States and Israel, voted against, while 23 abstained.

The vote comes as Israeli forces continued to battle Hamas militants today and bombed more targets in the devastated Gaza Strip.

More than two months into the conflict sparked by Hamas’s 7 October attack, the visiting chief of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, Philippe Lazzarini, likened Gaza to “hell on earth” and said of video footage of an UNRWA school being blown up: “It is outrageous.”

“All public facilities, including hospitals & @UN schools are protected under international law,” he posted on X, formerly Twitter.

The Gaza health ministry today updated its death toll in Gaza to 18,412, mostly women and children.

The militant Islamist group said Israeli forces raided a hospital in Gaza City, the biggest urban centre.

“Israeli occupation forces are storming Kamal Adwan hospital after besieging and bombing it for days,” health ministry spokesperson Ashraf al-Qudra said, accusing troops of rounding up men in the hospital courtyard, including medical staff.

The army did not immediately comment, but Israel has repeatedly accused Hamas of using hospitals, schools, mosques and tunnels beneath them as military bases – claims it has denied.

The UN humanitarian agency OCHA said earlier that “the hospital remains surrounded by Israeli troops and tanks, and fighting with armed groups has been reported in its vicinity for three consecutive days”.

It said two mothers were killed in a strike on the maternity ward, and that about 3,000 displaced people were trapped in the facility.

The conflict began with Hamas’s 7 October attacks that killed 1,200 people, according to Israeli figures, and saw around 240 hostages taken back to Gaza.

palestinians-inspect-a-site-after-it-was-hit-by-an-israeli-bombardment-on-rafah-gaza-strip-tuesday-dec-12-2023-ap-photofatima-shbair Palestinians inspect a site after it was hit by an Israeli bombardment on Rafah, Gaza Strip Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Israel has responded to the unprecedented attack with an offensive aiming to destroy Hamas that has reduced much of Gaza to rubble.

Hamas is an Islamic militant group who are deemed a terrorist organisation by Israel, the US and the EU, among other powers. It has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007 after winning the 2006 Palestinian elections and taking power by force.

The United Nations said its satellite analysis agency UNOSAT had determined, based on a November 26 image, that 18 percent of Gaza’s infrastructure had been destroyed.

UN agencies and aid groups fear the territory will soon be overwhelmed by starvation and disease, and are pleading with Israel to boost efforts to protect civilians.

‘Beyond breakdown’

UN human rights chief Volker Turk warned the humanitarian situation there was “beyond breakdown”.

The world body estimates 1.9 million of Gaza’s 2.4 million people have been displaced by the conflict, half of them children.

Israeli air strikes today killed at least 24 people in Rafah, where tens of thousands are seeking shelter, the Gaza health ministry said.

One left a deep crater and gutted surrounding buildings.

“There are still people under the rubble,” said resident Abu Jazar, 23. ”We call on the Arab people and the world to put on pressure to stop the strikes on Gaza.”

palestinians-wounded-in-the-israeli-bombardment-of-the-gaza-strip-are-brought-to-a-hospital-in-rafah-monday-dec-11-2023-ap-photohatem-ali Palestinians wounded in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip are brought to a hospital in Rafah Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

At Rafah hospital, bereaved father Hani Abu Jamaa cradled the body of his young daughter Sidal, who was killed by shrapnel.

He said there had been strong explosions overnight and he only found she was dead when he tried to wake her in the morning.

“Even if I live 100 years, I will never find another like her,” he said, crying. “May God have mercy on her, oh Lord.”

Israel yesterday said it will conduct additional examinations on relief supplies, before they are dispatched to the Palestinian territory through the Rafah crossing.

‘No water, no power, no bread’

Israel’s military said it had struck a rocket launch site in Jabalia that had fired on Sderot in southern Israel, and also found hundreds of shells and rocket-propelled grenade launchers in a Hamas compound.

The military has lost 105 soldiers in the offensive, it said today, including 13 killed by friendly fire and others in accidents.

It said two “fell” and others were wounded in a Gaza operation in which the army recovered the bodies of two hostages – Ziv Dado and Eden Zecharya.

Army spokesman Daniel Hagari said 135 hostages remained in Gaza.

Fighting and heavy bombardment in south Gaza, where Israel previously urged civilians to seek safety, have left people with few places to go.

israeli-troops-are-seen-near-the-gaza-strip-border-in-southern-israel-monday-dec-11-2023-the-army-is-battling-palestinian-militants-across-gaza-in-the-war-ignited-by-hamas-oct-7-attack-into-is Israeli troops are seen near the Gaza Strip border, in southern Israel Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

In Gaza City, thousands of Palestinians set up camp at a UN agency headquarters after homes and shops were destroyed by Israeli strikes.

An AFP correspondent said both the Islamic and adjacent Al-Azhar universities had been reduced to rubble, as had the police station.

“There is no water. There is no electricity, no bread, no milk for the children, and no diapers,” said Rami al-Dahduh, 23, a tailor.

New UN meeting

The UN General Assembly overwhelmingly passed a non-binding resolution this evening demanding an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza.

“We condemn anyone who encourages Israel to continue its killings,” Palestinian prime minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said ahead of the vote.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said following a conversation with US President Joe Biden that there was “disagreement” between the allies over “the day after Hamas.”

Biden said later the Israeli government was opposed to a two-state solution and called on Netanyahu to “change the administration”, revealing a rare rift between the two sides.

Biden said Israel was starting to lose support around the world and that Netanyahu “has to strengthen and change” his government to find a long-term solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In the occupied West Bank, where violence has escalated since the conflict began, Israeli forces killed six Palestinians in the city of Jenin, health officials said.

Fears of a wider conflict continue to grow, with Iran-backed groups targeting US and allied forces in Iraq and Syria, and daily exchanges of fire along Israel’s border with Lebanon.

The Israeli army said in response to projectiles fired today from Lebanon and Syria, it retaliated by striking launch sites.

France said one of its frigates shot down a drone threatening a Norwegian-flagged tanker hit in an overnight missile attack claimed by Iran-backed Huthi rebels.

Includes reporting by Hayley Halpin and © AFP 2023

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