Israel battles intensifies as UN labels Gaza 'hell on earth'

AFP , Tuesday 12 Dec 2023

Israeli forces attacked and bombed more targets in the devastated Gaza Strip on Tuesday as the UN General Assembly was due to vote on a new demand for a ceasefire.

People search building rubble for items to salvage following an early morning Israeli strike in Rafa
People search building rubble for items to salvage following an early morning Israeli strike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on December 12, 2023, amid the ongoing Israeli war on Gaza. AFP

 

More than two months into the war, the visiting chief of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, Philippe Lazzarini, likened Gaza to "hell on earth".

Gaza's health ministry charged Tuesday that Israeli forces were raiding a hospital in Gaza City, the biggest urban center, in the north of the coastal territory.

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

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 internally displaced people were trapped in the facility amid reports of "extreme shortages of water, food, and power".

Israel has killed at least 18,200 people, more than two-thirds of them women and children, according to Gaza health ministry.

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

Air and artillery strikes again rained down on in Gaza, a day after Defence Minister Yoav Gallant claimed significant progress in the over two-month-old war.

'WWII-level devastation' 
 

The war has deepened the suffering in Gaza, whose devastation the EU's top diplomat Josep Borrell has compared that of Germany during World War II.

The UN estimates 1.9 million of Gaza's 2.4 million people have been displaced by the war, half of them children.

Israeli air strikes killed at least 12 people in Rafah near the border with Egypt, where tens of thousands are seeking shelter, official Palestinian news agency Wafa said.

One strike left a deep crater and gutted surrounding buildings. Teenagers were salvaging belongings from the rubble with their hands, a young girl retrieving some notebooks.

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

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

He said there had been strong explosions overnight and that 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. May God have mercy on her."

'No water, no power, no bread' 
 

Israel's occupation army claimed Tuesday it had struck a rocket launch site in Jabalia near Gaza City from where missiles had been fired at the town of Sderot in southern Israel.

It said later that 105 soldiers had died in the Gaza war, including 13 killed by friendly fire and others in accidents.

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

In central Gaza, Al-Aqsa hospital was inundated with victims Monday, including dozens of screaming children, after Israeli strikes on the Al-Maghazi refugee camp.

In Gaza City, thousands of Palestinians set up camp at a UN agency headquarters after nearby 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 was due to vote later Tuesday on a non-binding resolution demanding "an immediate humanitarian ceasefire" in Gaza -- a call that the Security Council has so far failed to make.

The United States, one of the five permanent members of the Security Council, used its veto on Friday to halt a draft text calling for a truce.

In a bid to build pressure, Arab countries called for the new special session of the General Assembly following a visit to the Rafah border by more than a dozen Security Council ambassadors.

The draft text, seen by AFP, largely reproduces the resolution blocked in the Council on Friday by the United States.

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

The Yemeni Huthi rebels claimed responsibility for a missile strike on a Norwegian-flagged tanker off Yemen, but no casualties were reported.

A drone and rockets targeted two military bases in Iraq and Syria on Monday housing forces of the international coalition against the Islamic State group, a US military official said.

Israeli bombardment killed an official in south Lebanon, the National News Agency said, amid near-daily cross-border exchanges between Israel and Hezbollah.

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