Over 200 Palestinians killed in Israel’s latest attacks on Gaza
Hamas says Gaza death toll tops 10,000 as Israel steps up war; UN chiefs call for ceasefire: Death toll nears 10,000 as US lays focus on humanitarian aid for Palestinians: Telecommunications cut for third time in Gaza: House-to-house combat as Netanyahu wants hostages freed first
November 6, 2023 08:39 AM
Intense Israeli airstrikes killed more than 200 people overnight in the Gaza Strip, the Hamas-run health ministry in the besieged Palestinian territory said Monday.
"More than 200 martyrs were reported killed in the overnight massacres," the ministry said in a statement, adding the death toll only covered Gaza City and the northern part of the Gaza Strip.
Israel began pounding Gaza with what it called "significant" strikes on Monday as soldiers battled Hamas forces in the territory, ignoring ceasefire calls by UN aid agencies who condemned surging civilian deaths in the month-long conflict.
Meanwhile, a knife-wielding attacker stabbed and seriously wounded a female Israeli soldier before being shot dead in annexed east Jerusalem on Monday, police said.
Hamas says Gaza death toll tops 10,000 as Israel steps up war
The death toll in Gaza now exceeds 10,000 after nearly one month of Israeli bombardment, the Hamas-run health ministry said Monday as the offensive against the Palestinian militant group showed signs of intensifying.
Determined to destroy Hamas whose October 7 attack left 1,400 dead in Israel and saw over 240 hostages taken, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed no letup despite mounting international calls for a ceasefire.
Hundreds of overnight strikes pushed the death toll to 10,022, mostly women and children, a spokesman for the health ministry told a press conference on Monday afternoon.
Two paediatric hospitals and Gaza's only psychiatric hospital were hit, the ministry said, after the director of another hospital, the Deir al-Balah in central Gaza, reported he had counted 58 dead.
"These are massacres! They destroyed three houses over the heads of their inhabitants -- women and children," one resident, Mahmud Meshmesh, told AFP.
"We have already taken 40 bodies out of the rubble," he said as crowds prayed around corpses wrapped in white shrouds.
The Israeli military accuses Hamas of building tunnels underneath hospitals, schools and places of worship in Gaza to hide fighters, store arms and ammunition, and plan attacks -- charges the militant group has denied.
Ground forces with tanks have flooded the northern half of the Gaza Strip and tightened an encirclement of Gaza City, effectively splitting the territory in two, even as hundreds of thousands of civilians remained in the north despite Israeli evacuation orders.
Israel's ally the United States sent its top diplomat Antony Blinken on a whirlwind Middle East tour that wrapped up on Monday in Turkey, where again his host pressed for an Israeli ceasefire, which Washington has declined to endorse.
The heads of major United Nations agencies issued a joint statement also calling for a ceasefire inside the territory of 2.4 million people where an Israeli siege has cut off most water, food and fuel supplies.
"For almost a month, the world has been watching the unfolding situation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory in shock and horror at the spiralling numbers of lives lost and torn apart," said the statement.
"We need an immediate humanitarian ceasefire. It's been 30 days. Enough is enough. This must stop now."
The Israeli army said on Monday it had pounded Gaza with "significant" new strikes on 450 targets, having earlier said it had already hit over 12,000. It also reported seizing a Hamas command post in central Gaza, where tanks were driving between the ruins of buildings.
"We will take the fight to Hamas wherever they are -- underground, above ground," Israeli army spokesman Jonathan Conricus said, referring to Hamas tunnels, and repeating calls for civilians to leave the urban war zone.
"We will be able to dismantle Hamas, stronghold after stronghold, battalion after battalion, until we achieve the ultimate goal, which is to rid the Gaza Strip -- the entire Gaza Strip -- of Hamas."
- 'Are there any survivors?' -
Israeli troops and Hamas fighters have engaged in fierce house-to-house combat in densely populated north Gaza, where the war has sent 1.5 million people fleeing to other parts of the territory.
Netanyahu has remained firm on his position, vowing on Sunday that "there won't be a ceasefire until the hostages are returned".
Shortly before the latest barrage of strikes, internet and telephone lines were cut, the army said.
Israel has air-dropped leaflets and sent text messages ordering Palestinian civilians in northern Gaza to head south, but a US official said Saturday at least 350,000 civilians remained in the worst-hit areas.
The Rafah crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt reopened Monday to allow the evacuation of foreigners and dual nationals, the Hamas government said, ending a two-day closure prompted by a dispute over the passage of ambulances.
Six ambulances carrying wounded Gazans also arrived in Egypt on Monday as the evacuations resumed, a border official said.
Blinken on his regional tour -- which took him to Israel, Jordan, the occupied West Bank, Cyprus, Iraq and Turkey -- called for "humanitarian pauses" while rejecting Arab countries' demands for a ceasefire.
After meeting his Turkish counterpart Hakan Fidan in Ankara on Monday, Blinken said Washington was working "very aggressively" to dramatically expand aid reaching trapped civilians in Gaza, but he did not provide details before boarding a flight to Japan.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan himself was travelling across his country's remote northeast on Monday, apparently snubbing Blinken.
NATO member Turkey, which is allied to the Palestinians but also has ties with Israel, has said it is recalling its ambassador to Israel and breaking off contacts with Netanyahu.
Meeting with Blinken in the West Bank on Sunday, Palestinian Authority president Mahmud Abbas denounced "the genocide and destruction suffered by our Palestinian people in Gaza at the hands of Israel's war machine".
- Jerusalem knife attack -
The war has exacerbated tensions in the West Bank, where more than 150 Palestinians have been killed in clashes with Israeli forces and settlers since it started, according to the Palestinian health ministry.
In Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, a female Israeli soldier was "seriously" wounded in a knife attack before "border police forces neutralised the terrorist by shooting", police said.
The Israeli military said Monday it had arrested Palestinian activist Ahed Tamimi, 22, in a raid in her West Bank town of Nabi Salih on suspicion of "inciting violence and terrorist activities".
Tamimi became prominent at age 14 when she was filmed biting an Israeli soldier to prevent him from arresting her younger brother, and for later slapping another Israeli soldier.
A large portrait of her was painted on the Israeli separation wall with the West Bank.
When AFP asked about the reasons for her arrest, a security source forwarded an Instagram post, which has circulated widely and is attributed to the young activist.
According to the post, written in Arabic and Hebrew, she called for the massacre of Israelis in explicitly violent terms, referring to Hitler.
Her mother, Narimane Tamimi, denied that she wrote the post and added that "when Ahed tries to open a social media account, it's immediately blocked".
UN chiefs call for ceasefire
The heads of all major UN agencies issued a rare joint statement Sunday expressing outrage at the civilian death toll in Gaza and calling for an "immediate humanitarian ceasefire" in the war between Israel and Hamas.
"For almost a month, the world has been watching the unfolding situation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory in shock and horror at the spiralling numbers of lives lost and torn apart," the UN chiefs said.
The heads of 18 organizations including UNICEF, the World Food Program and the World Health Organization described the horrific toll on both sides since the October 7 Hamas cross-border attack from Gaza into Israel, which left about 1,400 people dead, mainly civilians, according to Israeli authorities.
Israel has retaliated with relentless air and artillery strikes that have killed at least 9,770 people, also mostly civilians, says the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza.
In Gaza, the UN statement said, "an entire population is besieged and under attack, denied access to the essentials for survival, bombed in their homes, shelters, hospitals and places of worship. This is unacceptable."
It called on Hamas to release the more than 240 hostages it took in its attack, and urged both sides to respect their obligations under international law as the war rages on.
The UN leaders said more food, water, medicine and fuel must be allowed into Gaza to help its besieged population as Israel attacks with the stated goal of destroying Hamas. "We need an immediate humanitarian ceasefire. It’s been 30 days. Enough is enough. This must stop now," the statement said.
South Gaza and north Gaza
Israel said it was pounding Gaza with "significant" strikes after cutting it in two, as America's top diplomat pressed a Middle East tour focused on humanitarian aid for the Palestinians.
Israeli forces "have encircled Gaza City... Now there exists a south Gaza and a north Gaza", army spokesman Daniel Hagari said.
Shortly before the strikes, internet and telephone lines were cut, and the strikes would continue over night and in the days to come, he added.
He spoke after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited the occupied West Bank, Iraq and Cyprus Sunday on a whirlwind tour with the focus on aid for beleaguered civilians in Gaza and preventing attacks by Iran-backed groups on American troops in response to Israel's Gaza war.
Blinken met Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas who denounced what he called "genocide" in Gaza, where the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory said at least 9,770 people, mostly civilians, had been killed in more than four weeks of war.
With telecommunications in Gaza cut for a third time, Washington rebuffed calls for a ceasefire.
Global concern has soared over the spiralling Gaza death toll, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu again vowed that "there won't be a ceasefire until the hostages are returned". "Let them remove this from their lexicon. We are saying this to our enemies and to our friends," the veteran right-wing premier said after meeting troops at an air force base.
"We will simply continue until we win. We have no alternative."
Soldiers engaged in house-to-house combat on Sunday as tanks and armoured bulldozers churned through the sand in footage released by the army.
"This strike is like an earthquake," Gaza City resident Alaa Abu Hasera said in a devastated area where entire blocks have been reduced to rubble.
Blinken, in his talks with Abbas, said Palestinians in Gaza "must not be forcibly displaced", a US State Department spokesman said.
Israel has distributed leaflets and sent text messages urging Palestinian civilians in northern Gaza to head south, but a US official said Saturday at least 350,000 civilians remained in what is now an urban war zone.
Abbas denounced "the genocide and destruction suffered by our Palestinian people in Gaza at the hands of Israel's war machine, with no regard for the principles of international law," the official Palestinian news agency Wafa said.
- 'Stop extremist violence' -
Israel has relentlessly pounded Gaza in its battle to destroy Hamas, levelling entire city blocks.
"Right now, parents in Gaza do not know whether they can feed their children today and whether they will even survive to see tomorrow," said Cindy McCain, head of the World Food Programme.
Blinken last week told a Senate hearing Abbas's Palestinian Authority (PA) should retake control of Gaza after the war. It currently exercises only limited autonomy in parts of the West Bank and Netanyahu has long sought to sideline it.
Abbas said Sunday the PA could return to power in Gaza in the future only if a "comprehensive political solution" is found for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Washington has said it backs a Palestinian state alongside Israel, but Netanyahu's hard-right government has been implacably opposed.
The war has exacerbated tensions in the West Bank, where more than 150 Palestinians have been killed in clashes with Israeli forces and in settler attacks, according to the Palestinian health ministry.
Blinken and Abbas discussed "the need to stop extremist violence against Palestinians" in the West Bank, the State Department said.
- 'We saw dead bodies' -
Since Israel sent ground forces into the north of Gaza late last month, "over 2,500 terror targets have been struck" by "ground, air and naval forces", the army said Sunday.
Shortly after the phone and internet connections were cut, the Israeli army launched its intense bombardment on Gaza City and other nearby zones in the territory's north.
Some explosions were so powerful they could be heard in Rafah in the far south, an AFP journalist said.
Hamas said Israel was carrying out "intense bombings" around several hospitals in northern Gaza.
Images showed civilians heading south away from the fighting, though military spokesman Hagari told foreign reporters Hamas was using roadblocks to try to prevent them from fleeing.
"We saw dead bodies in the streets," Suhad Zorob said as she fled south. "We saw the tanks... only one street away from us."
The Gaza health ministry said Israeli bombing of Al-Maghazi refugee camp late Saturday killed 45 people, with an eyewitness reporting children dead and homes smashed.
"An Israeli air strike targeted my neighbours' house in Al-Maghazi camp, my house next door partially collapsed," said Mohammed Alaloul, 37, a journalist working for the Turkish Anadolu Agency.
He told AFP the bombing killed four of his children, four of his brothers and several of his nieces and nephews.
The Israeli military has said it is looking into whether its forces were operating in the area at the time of the bombing.
Blinken faced a rising tide of anger in meetings with Arab foreign ministers in Jordan on Saturday, where he reaffirmed US support for "humanitarian pauses" rather than a ceasefire.
The new US ambassador to Israel, Jack Lew, said Sunday the October 7 Hamas attack was "a stain on humanity that cannot happen again".
US Central Command (CENTCOM) said an Ohio-class submarine -- a nuclear-capable vessel -- had arrived in the region.
- 'Not a war, a massacre' -
After visiting the West Bank, Blinken made a brief stop in Cyprus, the nearest EU member state, which has said it is working towards establishing a maritime corridor for aid to Gaza.
He then flew to Baghdad and met Prime Minister Mohamed Shia al-Sudani.
"I made very clear that attacks or threats coming from militias that are aligned with Iran are totally unacceptable," Blinken said in Baghdad.
Later Blinken was expected in Turkey, whose President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has held Netanyahu personally responsible for Gaza's growing civilian death toll.
Turkey on Saturday said it was recalling its ambassador to Israel and breaking off contacts with Netanyahu.
International concern mounted over the suffering.
French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna, visiting Qatar, called for "an immediate, durable and observed humanitarian truce" that could "lead to a ceasefire".
Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry of Egypt, the sole conduit for foreigners to escape Gaza and for aid to get in, on Saturday called for an "immediate and comprehensive ceasefire".
That call was echoed by thousands of protesters in Washington in solidarity with Palestinians, one of multiple rallies held from Indonesia to Iran, as well as in European cities.
Thousands also demonstrated in Israel on Saturday as pressure mounts on Netanyahu over his government's lack of preparedness for the October 7 attacks and its handling of the hostage crisis.
Hundreds outside Netanyahu's Jerusalem residence called on him to resign, while in Tel Aviv relatives and friends of some of the hostages chanted "bring them home now".