UN says Israel's Gaza war 'staining humanity' on eve of 100th day

AFP , Sunday 14 Jan 2024

The United Nations said on Saturday that Israel's war on Gaza was "staining humanity" on the eve of its 100th day as Israel faces charges of committing genocidal acts against Gaza Palestinians in the war-torn territory.

File photo: A girl looks on as she stands by the rubble outside a building hit by Israeli bombardment in the southern Gaza Strip. AFP


The devastating Israeli war has unleashed a humanitarian crisis in Gaza and fears of a regional escalation intensified after US and British forces struck Houthi rebels in Yemen on Friday following attacks on Red Sea shipping.

Israel's relentless bombardment and ground invasion of Gaza has killed at least 23,843 people, mostly women and children, according to the latest toll from the Palestinian health ministry.

Moreover, an Israeli siege has sparked acute shortages of food, water, medicine and fuel in Gaza, where the health system is collapsing.

Visiting the Gaza Strip, the head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, Philippe Lazzarini, said "the massive death, destruction, displacement, hunger, loss and grief of the last 100 days are staining our shared humanity".

An entire generation of children in Gaza were being "traumatised", diseases were spreading and the clock is "ticking fast towards famine", he warned.

'No one will stop us'

The Hague-based International Court of Justice this week heard arguments in a case launched by South Africa -- and welcomed by Palestinians -- accusing Israel of breaching the UN Genocide Convention.

The case seeks a halt to the military invasion of Gaza, which Israel stressed to the court was in self-defence and not aimed at Palestinian residents.

But Netanyahu insisted as the civilian death toll mounts in Gaza that no court or military foe could stop Israel from achieving its aim of destroying Hamas.

"No one will stop us -- not The Hague, not the Axis of Evil and no one else," he told a televised press conference, referring to the Iran-aligned "axis of resistance" groups in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

"It is possible and necessary to continue until victory and we will do it," he added, saying most Hamas battalions in Gaza had been "eliminated."

Israel insists thousands of Hamas fighters have been killed in Gaza, however, women and children make up two-thirds of those killed in Israeli bombardment.

'We started to scream'

Health officials in Gaza said that Israeli strikes killed at least 60 people in the besieged territory.

Nimma al-Akhras, 80, described the strike that destroyed her home.

"It was very powerful," she said. "We started to scream and I couldn't move but someone pulled me out and put me on a cart."

At Rafah's Al-Najjar hospital, mourners gathered and prayed around the bodies of slain relatives.

One man, Bassem Araf, held up a photo of a child.

"She died hungry with bread in her hand. We tried to remove the bread from her hand but it was held tight," Araf said.

"This is the resistance they are targeting in Gaza, just children."

'Devastating repercussions'

An AFP reporter in Rafah said telecommunications had been partially restored, a day after Gaza's main operator Paltel reported the latest outage.

Paltel did not immediately confirm the service restoration but said an Israeli strike killed two of its employees in Khan Younis while they were repairing the network.

Winter rains have exacerbated the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza, where the UN estimates 1.9 million -- nearly 85 percent of the population -- have been displaced.

Many have sought shelter in Rafah and other southern areas where the health ministry says there isn't the infrastructure to support them.

Gaza's health ministry spokesman said Israel was "deliberately targeting hospitals... to put them out of service", warning of "devastating repercussions".

Hospitals, protected under international humanitarian law, have repeatedly been hit by Israeli strikes in Gaza since the war erupted.

Fewer than half of Gaza's hospitals are functioning and those only partly, the World Health Organization says.

In Israel, concern grew for captives held by Hamas in Gaza as they approach their 100th day in captivity, with Netanyahu under domestic pressure to get them home.

Thousands rallied in Tel Aviv on Saturday calling for their release, after relatives unveiled a replica of the Gaza tunnels where the captives are believed to be held.

"We will continue to come here week after week until everybody is released," Edan Begerano, 47, told AFP.

Separately, about 100 people gathered to call for an end to the war, carrying signs saying: "Revenge is not victory" and: "No to the occupation." Minor scuffles broke out between them and government supporters.

*This story was edited by Ahram Online

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