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A Palestinian woman displaced by the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip sits outside a destroyed home in Rafah. Alamy Stock Photo

Gaza health ministry says at least 210 people killed in last 24 hours as Israel intensifies bombing

The health ministry also raised alarm over the spread of disease among children and the overall lack of water, food and medicine in the besieged Strip.

THE HEALTH MINISTRY in Gaza has said that at least 210 people have been killed in the besieged territory in the last 24 hours, “including entire families”. 

Israeli forces heavily bombed the Gaza Strip today as the centre of fierce combat against Hamas moves steadily south, where hundreds of thousands of displaced Palestinians are sheltering.

The conflict since Hamas’s 7 October attack on Israel has devastated much of northern Gaza as air and artillery strikes and house-to-house fighting have become heaviest in the southern city of Khan Yunis.

The health ministry in Gaza said today at least 21,320 people have been killed in the Palestinian territory since 7 October.

Another 55,603 people have been wounded, health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said in a televised press conference.

Qudra said at least 210 people have been killed in Gaza over the past 24 hours “including entire families”.

In a statement, the health ministry also raised the alarm over the spread of disease among children and the overall lack of water, food and medicine in the besieged Strip.

“The humanitarian and health conditions of the displaced have reached catastrophic levels,” it said.

The Israeli army has deployed an additional brigade to Khan Yunis, the hometown of Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar, said military spokesman Daniel Hagari.

More than 80% of Gaza’s 2.4 million people have been driven from their homes, the UN says, and many now live in cramped shelters or makeshift tents in the far south, in and around the city of Rafah near Egypt.

UN World Health Organisation chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called for “urgent steps to alleviate the grave peril” facing Gaza’s people, including “terrible injuries, acute hunger and… severe risk of disease”.

French President Emmanuel Macron, in a call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, voiced his “deepest concern at the very heavy civilian toll” and stressed “the need to work towards a lasting ceasefire”, Macron’s office said.

Israel has vowed to destroy Hamas in retaliation for its 7 October attack, which left about 1,140 people dead, most of them civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures.

corrects-date-an-israeli-mobile-artillery-unit-fires-a-shell-from-southern-israel-towards-the-gaza-strip-in-a-position-near-the-israel-gaza-border-on-wednesday-dec-27-2023-ap-photoohad-zwigenb An Israeli mobile artillery unit fires a shell from southern Israel towards the Gaza Strip, in a position near the Israel-Gaza border. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

The Palestinian militants also took around 250 hostages, 129 of whom remain in captivity – a source of intense grief and anxiety for their families who have held protests demanding urgent action to “bring them home”.

As the fighting between Hamas militants and Israeli forces raged in the southern city of Khan Yunis today, health officials called for medical facilities to be protected.

“The Israeli occupation is repeatedly targeting the vicinity of Nasser hospital and Al-Amal hospital, affiliated with the Palestinian Red Crescent Society,” the Gaza health ministry said.

Earlier today, the Red Crescent said it feared that the intensification of deadly strikes near Al-Amal hospital could be “a prelude to targeting it directly”, adding that at least 10 people had been killed in fresh shelling.

The Israeli army says 167 of its soldiers have been killed in combat inside Gaza against Hamas, considered a “terrorist” organisation by the US and EU.

Quadruplets born in war

An Israeli siege imposed in the wake of the 7 October attack – following years of crippling blockade – has deprived Gazans of food, water, fuel and medicine.

The severe shortages have only been sporadically eased by humanitarian aid convoys entering primarily via Egypt.

“We are tired of everything,” said Ekhlas Shnenou who fled her Gaza City home. “Enough with the war, enough with the pain, enough with the hunger.”

One of the many people displaced, 28-year-old Iman al-Masry, recently gave birth to quadruplets in a hospital in southern Gaza after fleeing her family’s home in the devastated north.

The arduous journey “affected my pregnancy”, she said, recounting that she gave birth by C-section on 18 December to two girls and two boys, one of whom was too fragile to leave hospital.

palestinians-wounded-in-the-israeli-bombardment-of-the-gaza-strip-receive-treatment-at-the-hospital-in-khan-younis-gaza-strip-on-wednesday-dec-27-2023-ap-photomohammed-dahman Palestinians wounded in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip receive treatment at the hospital in Khan Younis. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

“They are very slim,” she said of the three other infants, speaking in a cramped schoolroom turned shelter in Deir al-Balah. “It’s cold and windy and there’s no bathtub… I just use wipes.”

It decried in a statement the “intensification” of Israeli strikes in the area of the facility, already hit earlier this week, where about 14,000 Palestinians are sheltering.

Violence has also flared across the Israel-occupied West Bank, with at least 314 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces or settlers since 7 October, according to the territory’s health ministry.

Israeli forces overnight raided money exchange shops across the West Bank which the military said had provided funds for armed groups.

In Ramallah, seat of the Palestinian Authority, one man was killed by the troops, according to the health ministry. An AFP journalist saw Palestinians hurl Molotov cocktails at the Israeli forces.

Israel has occupied the West Bank since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and regularly carries out raids there, though they are far less common in the territory’s institutional heart Ramallah.

United Nations report issued today has said the human rights situation in the occupied West Bank was rapidly deteriorating and urged Israel to “end unlawful killings” against the Palestinian population.

palestinians-fleeing-the-israeli-bombardment-of-the-gaza-strip-arrive-in-rafah-wednesday-dec-27-2023-ap-photohatem-ali Palestinians fleeing the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip arrive in Rafah. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

“The use of military tactics and weapons in law enforcement contexts, the use of unnecessary or disproportionate force, and the enforcement of broad, arbitrary and discriminatory movement restrictions that affect Palestinians are extremely troubling,” UN rights chief Volker Turk said in a statement.

The report calls for an immediate end to the use of military weapons and means during law enforcement operations, an end to arbitrary detention and ill-treatment of Palestinians, and the lifting of discriminatory movement restrictions.

Mideast tensions flare

The bloodiest ever Gaza war has also sharply heightened tensions between Israel and its long-time arch foe Iran, which supports armed groups across the Middle East in what it dubs the “Axis of Resistance”.

Iran blamed Israel for a missile strike in Syria on Monday that killed the senior Iranian military commander Razi Moussavi, who was laid to rest at a tearful mass funeral in Tehran today.

The crowd chanted “Death to Israel” and “Death to America” after supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei led a prayer over the body of Moussavi, a top commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ foreign operations arms the Quds Force.

Tehran has vowed to avenge the death of Moussavi, the most senior Guards general killed since the US assassination of Quds Force chief Qasem Soleimani in 2020.

Israel has traded heavy cross-border fire with Iran-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon since the Gaza war broke out, and warned it will step up military action unless the group’s militants withdraw further away from the border.

The army today said it intercepted a drone that crossed in from Lebanon over northern Israel after sirens blared in the Haifa area.

A drone also crashed near a village in the Israel-annexed Golan Heights late yesterday, Israel’s army said, after an Iraqi armed group with links to Hamas claimed responsibility for an attack in the area.

Another Iran ally, Yemen’s Huthi rebels, has launched repeated drone and missile attacks at Israel, which have been intercepted in the air, and fired at passing cargo ships in the Red Sea, disrupting international trade. 

© AFP 2023