Israeli troops raid Gaza as Arab ministers condemn bombardment
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- Gaza health ministry says more than 7000 killed in air strikes
- Israel says 224 hostages are being held in Gaza.
- Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said its troops were still preparing for a full ground invasion.
- Gaza’s health ministry said that 7028 Palestinians had now been killed.
- A spokesman for Hamas’s armed wing, the al-Qassam Brigades, said about 50 captives had been killed in Gaza due to Israeli strikes.
Gaza/Jerusalem: Israeli ground forces mounted a big raid into Gaza overnight to attack Hamas targets amid growing anger across the Arab world over Israel’s relentless bombardment of the besieged Palestinian enclave.
The operation took place after Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said its troops were still preparing for a full ground invasion, while the United States and other countries urged Israel to delay such action, fearing it could ignite hostilities on other fronts in the Middle East.
The UN agency providing aid to Palestinian civilians in Gaza said it may have to shut down operations very soon if no fuel reaches the Hamas-ruled territory amid a desperate need for shelter, water, food and medical services.
Israel has carried out nearly three weeks of intense bombardments of the densely populated Gaza Strip following the October 7 Hamas attack on Israeli communities which it says killed some 1400 people.
Gaza’s health ministry said that 7028 Palestinians had now been killed in the retaliatory air strikes, including 2913 children.
The day before, US President Joe Biden cast doubt on the Palestinian casualty figures, which an Israeli military spokesman said could not be trusted.
Palestinians look for survivors after an Israeli airstrike in Rafah, Gaza on Thursday.Credit: AP
However the military has not provided any assessment of its own and Gaza Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra rejected the statements questioning the figures.
The Health Ministry published a 212 page document which it said contains the names of all the victims identified, with their ID numbers.
Israeli army radio said the military had overnight staged its biggest incursion into northern Gaza of the current war.
Military video showed armoured vehicles crossing the fortified barrier from Israel.
The vehicles blew up buildings in preparation for the next stages of combat.
“Tanks and infantry struck numerous terrorist cells, infrastructure and anti-tank missile launch posts,” it said.
Palestinians said Israeli air strikes had pounded the territory again overnight and people living in central Gaza, including near the Bureij refugee camp, reported intensive tank shelling all night.
As the bloodshed continued with no sign of a let-up, the foreign ministers of the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Egypt and Morocco condemned the targeting of civilians and violations of international law in Gaza.
Their joint statement said the right to self-defence did not justify breaking the law and neglecting Palestinians’ rights.
The Arab ministers also condemned forced displacement and collective punishment of the Palestinians in Gaza.
They criticised Israel’s continued occupation of Palestinian areas and called for more efforts to implement a two-state solution to the decades-long conflict – an idea that has been the foundation of a long-moribund peace process.
“The absence of a political solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has led to repeated acts of violence and suffering for the Palestinian and Israeli peoples and the peoples of the region,” it said.
Support for Israel came from European governments.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said EU leaders meeting in Brussels on Friday will send a clear signal of backing for Israel in what he called its self-defence efforts.
Concern also grew over the fate of more than 200 hostages seized by Hamas in the October 7 assault and taken to Gaza.
A spokesman for Hamas’s armed wing, the al-Qassam Brigades, said about 50 captives had been killed in Gaza due to Israeli strikes. He gave no further details and Reuters was not able to verify the numbers.
Biden discussed efforts to locate and secure Americans believed held hostage in Gaza in a phone call with Netanyahu.
Israel said there were 224 hostages, whose presence complicates any Israeli ground invasion. Some of those held include a number of foreign passport holders. Hamas has freed four captives since Friday and Gaza began receiving a small amount of aid the following day.
A Qatari negotiator told Sky News that a pause in fighting could help get more hostages released in the coming days.
Qatari Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Mohmmad Al Khulaifi said: “It’s a very, very difficult negotiation … With the bombing continuing every day, our task becomes more difficult. But despite that we remain hopeful, we remain committed.”
In Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza, an Israeli air strike hit a house, killing a mother, her three daughters and a baby boy, whose father held his body in hospital.
“Did he kill? Did he wound someone? Did he capture someone? They were innocent children inside their house,” he said.
The director of the Nasser hospital in the southern city of Khan Younis, Nahed Abu Taaema, said the bodies of 77 people killed in air strikes had been brought in overnight, most of them women and children, Hamas’s Al-Aqsa radio station reported.
Many Palestinians are sheltering in Khan Younis’s hospitals, schools, homes and existing refugee camps and on the street after Israel warned them to leave their homes in the north.
Israel did not respond directly to the report but said its forces had struck a Hamas missile launch post in the Khan Younis area that was next to a mosque and kindergarten.
It was not clear if both sides were referring to the same incident.
The United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, said it urgently needed fuel to maintain life-saving humanitarian operations in Gaza. Israel has refused to let in fuel with aid shipments, saying it could be seized by Hamas.
More than 613,000 people made homeless by the war are sheltering in 150 UNRWA facilities across the shattered territory.
“In the last 24 hours another three UNRWA staff members have been killed, bringing the total to 38 staff killed,” said UNRWA.
Around midday on Thursday, according to officials at Nasser Hospital in the southern town of Khan Younis, Israel bombed an area not far from an UNRWA shelter for displaced people, killing at least 18 people and causing panic among the displaced.
Mahmoud Shameya, sheltering there with his wife and three children, said they lived in constant terror because of ongoing Israeli bombing.
“I urge the whole world to protect us,” he said. “We sleep amid the sounds of explosions and we wake up to the sounds of explosions, the children are always blocking their ears with their hands.”
Humanitarian supplies are critically low but world powers failed at the United Nations to agree on how to call for a lull to the fighting to deliver significant amounts of aid.
More coverage of the Hamas-Israel conflict
- Cascading violence: Tremors from the Hamas attacks and Israel’s response have reached far beyond the border. But what would all-out war in the Middle East look like?
- The human cost: Hamas’ massacre in Israel has traumatised – and hardened – survivors. And in Gaza, neighbourhoods have become ghost cities.
- “Hamas metro”: Inside the labyrinthine network of underground tunnels, which the Palestinian militant group has commanded beneath war-ravaged Gaza for 16 years. The covert corridors have long provided essential channels for the movement of weapons and armed combatants.
- What is Hezbollah?: As fears of the conflict expanding beyond Israel and Hamas steadily rise, all eyes are on the militant group and political party that controls southern Lebanon and has been designated internationally as a terrorist group. How did it form and what does Iran have to do with it?
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