Gaza death toll tops 10,000; UN calls it a children's graveyard

Gaza death toll tops 10,000; UN calls it a children's graveyard
Gaza death toll tops 10,000; UN calls it a children's graveyard

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - An Israeli military unit fires from an undisclosed location near the Gaza Strip border, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Israel November 6, 2023. ― Reuters pic

GAZA, Nov 7 ― Gaza is becoming a “graveyard for children”, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said yesterday, amplifying demands for a ceasefire in the enclave, where Palestinian health authorities said the death toll from Israeli strikes had exceeded 10,000.

Both Israel and the Hamas militants who control Gaza have rebuffed mounting international pressure for a ceasefire. Israel says hostages taken by Hamas during its rampage in southern Israel on October 7 should be released first; Hamas says it will not free them or stop fighting while Gaza is under assault.

“Ground operations by the Israel Defense Forces and continued bombardment are hitting civilians, hospitals, refugee camps, mosques, churches and UN facilities ― including shelters. No one is safe,” Guterres told reporters.

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“At the same time, Hamas and other militants use civilians as human shields and continue to launch rockets indiscriminately towards Israel,” he said, calling for an immediate and unconditional release of all hostages.

Israel said 31 soldiers had been killed since it began expanded ground operations in Gaza on October 27 and reiterated that Hamas was hiding with civilians and at hospitals. Hamas said the idea that Hamas was based in hospitals was a “false narrative that the UN should verify.

A Reuters journalist in Gaza said Israel's overnight bombardment by air, ground and sea was one of its most intense since the October7 attack in which Hamas killed 1,400 people in Israel and seized more than 240 hostages.

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The health ministry in the Hamas-controlled enclave said at least 10,022 people in Gaza have since been killed, including 4,104 children.

“Gaza is becoming a graveyard for children. Hundreds of girls and boys are reportedly being killed or injured every day,” Guterres said.

International organisations have said hospitals cannot cope with the wounded and food and clean water are running out with aid deliveries nowhere near enough.

Guterres said 89 people working with the UN Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA) were among the dead. UNRWA said five colleagues had been killed in the past 24 hours alone.

“We need an immediate humanitarian ceasefire. It's been 30 days. Enough is enough. This must stop now,” an earlier statement by 18 UN organisations said.

The United States is pushing hard to arrange pauses in the conflict to allow in aid rather than a full ceasefire, arguing, like Israel, that Hamas militants would just take advantage.

US President Joe Biden discussed such pauses and possible hostage releases in a phone call with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, reiterating his support for Israel while emphasising that it must protect civilians, the White House said.

The faces of hostages were projected onto the wall of Jerusalem's Old City on the eve of the one-month anniversary of the attack.

Israel says it is closing in on Hamas

The Israeli military said its forces had taken a militant compound and were poised to attack Hamas fighters hiding in underground tunnels and bunkers in the northern Gaza Strip, having isolated the area with troops and tanks. It released video of tanks moving through bombed-out streets and groups of troops moving on foot.

“Now we are going to start closing in on them,” Lieutenant-Colonel Richard Hecht told reporters.

The armed wing of Hamas, the Al-Qassam brigades, said it had damaged 27 Israeli military vehicles in 48 hours and inflicted significant losses in direct engagements with Israeli troops.

The health ministry in Gaza said dozens of people were killed by Israeli air strikes in the north and south, including on Gaza City's Rantissi cancer hospital, where eight people were killed. Israel's military said it was looking into the report.

Gaza's health ministry spokesman said an air strike had also hit a building belonging to Gaza's largest hospital, Al Shifa, where 170 people were being treated and hundreds of evacuees were sheltering. One person was killed and several were wounded, he said. Israel said it had not struck the hospital.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said it had escorted a four-ambulance convoy of patients from Gaza City to the Rafah border crossing with Egypt. Evacuations had been suspended since an Israeli strike on an ambulance on Friday but three Egyptian security sources said dozens of foreign passport holders also left yesterday.

Blinken on regional tour

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has toured the region to try to prevent the conflict escalating and plan a secure future for Israelis and Palestinians as well as get in more aid.

“I think we'll see in the days ahead that assistance can expand in significant ways,” Blinken said in Turkey.

He visited the Israeli-occupied West Bank on Sunday to show support for Palestinians there and in Gaza and held talks in Israel as well as in neighbouring Jordan with Arab leaders.

US CIA Director William Burns also visited Israel and was due to go on to other states in the region, the New York Times reported. The CIA did not respond to a request for comment.

Israel said it was striking Hezbollah targets in Lebanon in response to a barrage of rockets fired at northern Israeli cities, an intensification of the worst clashes across the Israel-Lebanon border since 2006.

Hamas said it had launched 16 missiles towards Nahariyya and Southern Haifa in Israel.

Meanwhile, people searched for victims or survivors at the Maghazi refugee camp in Gaza, where the health ministry said Israeli forces had killed at least 47 people in strikes early on Sunday.

“All night I and the other men were trying to pick the dead from the rubble. We got children, dismembered, torn-apart flesh,” said Saeed al-Nejma, 53. Asked for comment, the Israeli military said it was gathering details.

The Israeli military said a four-hour window for civilians to leave the north would be repeated daily. UN monitoring showed fewer than 2,000 people used the corridor on Sunday, citing fear and road damage. A US envoy said on Saturday between 350,000 and 400,000 people were still in the north. ― Reuters

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