Israel faces mounting outrage over Gaza war

AFP , Ahram Online , Monday 18 Dec 2023

Israel is facing mounting international pressure over the rising civilian death toll and destruction of hospitals in Gaza, as it pressed on with its brutal war on the besieged Palestinian territory.

A man carrying a child, injured following Israeli bombardment, arrives to Nasser hospital in Khan Yu
A man carrying a child, injured following Israeli bombardment, arrives at Nasser Hospital in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, amid the ongoing Israeli war on Gaza. AFP


The United Nations Security Council is set to vote Monday on a new resolution calling for an "urgent and sustainable cessation of hostilities" in Gaza.

The deadliest ever Israeli war on Gaza has killed more than 18,800 Palestinians, two-thirds of them women and children. Dozens were killed in Israeli strikes on Sunday.

Following months of fierce bombardment and fighting, most of Gaza's population has also been displaced and people are grappling with shortages of fuel, food, water, and medicine.

Fewer than one-third of Gaza's hospitals are partly functioning, according to the UN, with the World Health Organization denouncing on Sunday the impact of Israeli attacks on two hospitals in the north of the territory.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the agency was "appalled by the effective destruction" of the Kamal Adwan hospital, where Israeli forces carried out a multi-day operation.

Outside the hospital courtyard, which showed tank and bulldozer tracks, Abu Mohammed, who came to look for his son, stood crying.

"I don't know how I will find him," he said, pointing to the debris.

The Israeli occupation army pulled out of the hospital on Sunday after an operation lasting several days, claiming it had been used as a command and control center by Hamas, without submitting any evidence, repeating a scenario similar to what occurred at Al-Shifa hospital.

Israel said that before entering the hospital it had negotiated safe passage for the evacuation of most of the people inside, which was denied by Hamas. 

The WHO also said the Israeli bombing had reduced the emergency department at the Al-Shifa hospital to "a bloodbath".

The health ministry in Gaza said an Israeli strike on Sunday hit Nasser Hospital in southern Gaza's main city of Khan Yunis, killing one person and injuring seven others.

The ministry said Israeli forces had stormed Al Awda Hospital in northern Gaza on Sunday and detained medical staff following several days of siege and bombing.

Medical staff at the hospital in Jabalia refugee camp were detained, stripped, and interrogated for hours under “inhumane conditions” before being released, the health ministry spokesperson Ashraf al-Qudra said in a statement.

The Israeli occupation army is also detaining Ahmed Muhanna, the director of Awda Hospital, at an undisclosed location, the hospital said in a statement. 

Near Gaza's northern border crossing at the Israeli city of Erez, the Israeli army said it had uncovered the biggest Hamas tunnel so far.

An AFP photographer reported that the tunnel was large enough for small vehicles to use.

The Israeli army said five soldiers were killed on Sunday, bringing the death toll to 126 in the Gaza Strip since ground operations began in late October.

Calls for truce 

The Israeli government has come under growing pressure from the international community to pause the fighting and do more to protect civilians.

The United Nations estimates that 1.9 million Gazans -- around 80 percent -- have been displaced by the Israeli war.

"I would not be surprised if people start dying of hunger, or a combination of hunger, disease, weak immunity," said Philippe Lazzarini, head of the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees.

The Palestinians have also faced repeated communications outages but on Sunday Gaza's main telecoms firm said mobile and internet service had been gradually restored.

French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna was in Israel on Sunday, where she called for an "immediate and durable" truce.

France separately condemned an Israel bombardment that killed one of its foreign ministry officials in Gaza.

Qatar, which helped mediate a truce last month that saw 80 Israeli captives exchanged for 240 jailed Palestinians, said there were "ongoing diplomatic efforts to renew the humanitarian pause".

But Hamas said on Telegram it was "against any negotiations for the exchange of prisoners until the aggression against our people ceases completely".

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was in Kuwait on Monday as part of a regional trip that will include stops in Israel and Qatar, which brokered a previous ceasefire deal.

'Daily humiliation'

Israel is also facing calls from the families of captives, to either slow, suspend, or end the military campaign.

There are 129 captives still in Gaza, Israel says, and relatives again rallied in Tel Aviv to call for a deal to bring them home after the army admitted to mistakenly killing three of the captives, while waving white flag and calling for help in hebrew.

One captive already freed, German-Israeli Raz Ben-Ami, 57, spoke of the "daily humiliation, mental, physical", she endured, including having one meal a day and no access to proper toilets. This seems to depict better conditions than what the Palestinians themselves are enduring under the brutal Israeli attacks.

The conflict in Gaza has also seen violence spiral in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

The Palestinian health ministry said Israeli forces killed five Palestinians on Sunday morning at a West Bank refugee camp.

Health officials say more than 290 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces or terrorist settlers in the West Bank since the war erupted.

Syria strikes

Fears continued to grow that the conflict in Gaza could engulf the wider region.

Israel carried out air strikes near Damascus on Sunday, wounding two Syrian soldiers, the Syrian defense ministry said.

Israeli forces and the Lebanese Hezbollah resistance militants are exchanging regular fire across Israel's northern border with Lebanon.

Yemen's Huthi rebels, saying they want to pressure Israel, have launched attacks on passing vessels in the vital Red Sea shipping zone, forcing major companies to redirect vessels.

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