At least 68 killed in central Gaza in Israeli airstrikes

AP , Monday 25 Dec 2023

At least 68 people were killed by an Israeli strike in central Gaza, health officials said late on Sunday, while the number of Israeli soldiers killed in combat over the weekend rose to 17.

A message in support of Gaza is displayed on a building next to the square of the Church of the Nati
A message in support of Gaza is displayed on a building next to the square of the Church of the Nativity in the biblical city of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank. AFP


Associated Press journalists at a nearby hospital watched frantic Palestinians carry the dead, including a baby, and wounded following the strike on the Maghazi refugee camp east of Deir al-Balah. One bloodied young girl looked stunned while her body was checked for broken bones.

The 68 fatalities include at least 12 women and seven children, according to early hospital figures.

“We were all targeted,” said Ahmad Turkomani, who lost several family members including his daughter and grandson. “There is no safe place in Gaza anyway.”

Earlier, the Health Ministry in Gaza gave the death toll as 70. 

As Christmas Eve fell, smoke rose over the besieged territory, while in the West Bank Bethlehem was hushed, its holiday celebrations called off.

In neighboring Egypt, tentative efforts continued on a deal for another exchange of captives for Palestinians held by Israel.

The Israeli war has devastated parts of Gaza, killed roughly 20,500 Palestinians, and displaced almost all of the territory’s 2.3 million people.

The mounting death toll among Israeli troops — 156 since the ground offensive began — could erode Israeli public support for the war.

Israelis still largely stand behind the government despite rising international pressure against Israel’s offensive, the soaring death toll, and unprecedented suffering among Palestinians.

“The war exacts a very heavy price on us, but we have no choice but to continue fighting,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

Efforts toward negotiations continued. The head of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Ziyad al-Nakhalah, arrived in Egypt for talks. The resistance group, which also took part in the Oct. 7 Al-Aqsa Flood operation, said it was prepared to consider releasing captives only after the fighting ends. Hamas’ top leader Ismail Haniyeh traveled to Cairo for talks days earlier.


Israel’s offensive has been one of the most devastating military campaigns in recent history. More than two-thirds of the 20,000 Palestinians killed have been women and children, according to the Health Ministry in Gaza.

On Friday, Israeli airstrikes on two homes in Gaza killed 90 Palestinians, including dozens from an extended family, according to rescuers and hospital officials.

One of the homes, located in Gaza City, became one of the deadliest airstrikes in the war after 76 people from the al-Mughrabi family were killed, said Mahmoud Bassal, a spokesman for Gaza’s Civil Defense Department.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said a 13-year-old boy was shot and killed in an Israeli drone attack while inside al-Amal Hospital in Khan Younis.

An Israeli strike overnight hit a house in a refugee camp west of the city of Rafah, on Gaza’s border with Egypt. At least two men were killed, according to Associated Press journalists in the hospital where the bodies were taken.

At least two people were killed and six others wounded when a missile struck a building in the Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza.

And Palestinians reported heavy Israeli bombardment and gunfire in Jabaliya, an area north of Gaza City that Israel had claimed to control. Hamas’ military arm said its fighters shelled Israeli troops in Jabaliya and Jabaliya refugee camp.

Israel faces accusations of mistreating Palestinian men and teenage boys detained in homes, shelters, hospitals and elsewhere during the offensive. It has denied abuse allegations and said those without links to militants are quickly released.

Speaking to the AP from a hospital bed in Rafah after his release, Khamis al-Burdainy of Gaza City said Israeli forces detained him after tanks and bulldozers partly destroyed his home. He said men were handcuffed and blindfolded.

“We didn’t sleep. We didn’t get food and water,” he said, crying and covering his face.

Another released detainee, Mohammed Salem, from the Gaza City neighborhood of Shijaiyah, said Israeli troops beat them. “We were humiliated,” he said. “A female soldier would come and beat an old man, aged 72 years old.”


The United Nations Security Council has passed a watered-down resolution calling for the speedy delivery of humanitarian aid for hungry and desperate Palestinians and the release of all the captives, but not for a cease-fire.

However it was not immediately clear how and when deliveries of food, medical supplies, and other aid, far below the daily average of 500 before the war, would accelerate. Trucks enter through two crossings: Rafah, and Karm Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom) on the border with Israel. Wael Abu Omar, a spokesman for the Palestinian Crossings Authority, said 123 aid trucks entered Gaza on Sunday,

The head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, reiterated U.N. calls for a humanitarian cease-fire, adding on social media that “the decimation of the Gaza health system is a tragedy.”

Amid concerns about a wider regional conflict, the U.S. Central Command said a patrol ship in the Red Sea on Saturday shot down four drones launched from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen, while two Houthi anti-ship ballistic missiles were fired into international shipping lanes.

The Houthis say their attacks are aimed at Israel-linked ships to stop the Israeli war in Gaza.

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