Israel army warns Gaza war will continue throughout 2024

AFP , Monday 1 Jan 2024

Israel warned its war on the Gaza Strip will continue throughout 2024 as unrelenting strikes killed two dozen people in Gaza and the Palestinian resistance group fired a rocket barrage at the stroke of midnight.

Gaza war
This picture taken from the Israeli border with the northern Gaza Strip shows Israeli soldiers watching Gaza City from a position, as smoke billows following Israeli strikes, on January 1, 2024. AFP


Israeli military spokesman Daniel Hagari said in a New Year's message that some of the 300,000 army reservists would get a break from the war, in order to prepare for the "prolonged fighting" ahead.

The army "must plan ahead, understanding that we will be required for additional tasks and warfare throughout this year," Hagari said as the civilian death toll mounts in Gaza.

Heavy artillery fire again pounded the Israeli-besieged strip, killing at least 24 people, health ministry officials there said, with attacks reported across the length of the territory.

In Gaza, where the UN says 85 percent of the population has been displaced, 20-year-old Hamdan Abu Arab said he hoped "2024 will be better".

"We used to go out and enjoy our time on the last day of the year," he recalled. "But this New Year's Eve, there are only missiles and the remains of people."

Hamas marked the start of the year by firing a rocket barrage at Israel in what it called a "response to the massacres of civilians".

Israel war Gaza has reduced the densely populated strip to a wasteland and killed at least 21,822 people, mostly women and children, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

The Israeli army says 172 of its soldiers have been killed since the ground invasion of Gaza.

'We live like animals'

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned on Saturday that the fighting would last "many months until Hamas is eliminated and the hostages are returned".

Hagari said "we are also currently adapting the planning of the force deployment in Gaza and the reserve system. Some of the reservists will return to their families and employment this week."

"This will significantly ease the burden on the economy and allow them to gather strength for the upcoming activities in the next year, as the fighting will continue and they will still be required."

Since Israel imposed a siege at the outset of the war, Gaza Palestinians have been facing dire shortages of food, water, fuel and medicine that have sparked a catastrophic humanitarian crisis in the strip.

UN chief Antonio Guterres has condemned the "epic human suffering" and "collective punishment" of Palestinian civilians, while the WHO has warned of the risk of hunger and infectious disease.

"We are exhausted... We were displaced five times during this war," said 29-year-old Bassam Hana.

"We hope things improve in 2024 and that we live just like any other human being. Currently, we live like animals."

At least 48 Palestinians were killed in strikes on Gaza City over the weekend, the Palestinian health ministry said, with many still buried under the rubble.

"After the explosion we arrived at the scene of the strike and saw martyrs everywhere," said one resident after a building was hit. "Children are still missing, we can't find them."

Regional fears

International mediators have continued efforts toward a new pause in fighting.

A Hamas delegation from Qatar visited Cairo on Friday to discuss an Egyptian three-phase plan proposing renewable ceasefires, a staggered release of Israeli captives for Palestinian prisoners, and ultimately an end to the war, sources close to Hamas said.

Their allies Islamic Jihad said on Saturday that Palestinian factions were evaluating the proposal and would give a response "within days".

The war in Gaza has raised fears of a broader regional conflict, with hostilities flaring with mostly Iran-backed militant groups in nearby countries who say they are acting in support of Gaza Palestinians suffering under Israel's brutal invasion.

The Israeli army announced Sunday night having intercepted two "hostile aircraft" launched from Syria towards northern Israel.

Earlier it had reported launches toward Israeli territory from Lebanon, where it has fought the Hezbollah resistance group.

And in the Red Sea, the US military said Sunday that Navy helicopters had fired at Iran-backed Houthi rebel boats off Yemen that were attacking a cargo ship, with Yemeni sources reporting 10 rebels killed.

*This story was edited by Ahram Online

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