News

US opposes occupation as Israeli forces operate 'in heart of Gaza City'

WHO says 160 children killed each day: Red Cross convoy hit by Israeli gunfire: Netanyahu rules out any ceasefire without hostage release: MSF says staff member killed in Gaza bombing

By AFP

November 8, 2023 08:59 AM


US opposes occupation as Israeli forces operate 'in heart of Gaza City'

A man reacts as the body of his brother is removed from under the rubble of a building destroyed by an Israeli air strike on the Al-Maghazi refugee camp in Deir Balah in the central Gaza Strip.–AFP

The United States has said that it opposed a new long-term occupation of Gaza by Israel as Jewish military said its forces were now operating "in the heart of Gaza City" one month after Hamas's October 7 attacks.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also issued a stark warning to Hezbollah in Lebanon which, like Hamas, is backed by Iran. "If Hezbollah makes the choice of joining the war it will be making the mistake of its life," he said in a televised statement marking a month of the war.

His defence minister, Yoav Gallant, underlined Israel's determination "to destroy Hamas". "We are in the heart of Gaza City," he told reporters. "Gaza is the largest terrorist base ever built."

Netanyahu also said there would be no fuel delivered to Gaza and no ceasefire in Israel's fighting with Hamas unless the more than 240 hostages seized by the Palestinian militants are freed.

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Both men spoke on a day of commemoration in Israel to mark the grim one-month milestone.

The Israel attacks have so far killed more than 10,300 people, mostly civilians, said the Palestinian territory's Hamas-run health ministry.

"There's not one person not impacted by these horrible attacks," said 52-year-old Sharon Balaban, one of thousands of Israelis who attended sorrowful memorial events. "Everyone knows somebody who was hurt, killed, murdered or impacted."

- Hundreds more killed in Gaza -

The Hamas-run health ministry said on Tuesday the death toll in Gaza had reached 10,328, adding more than 300 to the figure from Monday.

The toll includes more than 4,200 children, according to the ministry.

Washington acknowledged on Monday there had been "thousands" of civilian casualties in Gaza, after President Joe Biden previously called into question the validity of numbers published by Hamas.

"As it relates to civilian casualties in Gaza... we know the numbers are in the thousands," Pentagon spokesman Brigadier General Pat Ryder told journalists.

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- 160 children killed each day -

The World Health Organization said an average of 160 children are killed each day in Gaza as a result of the Israel-Hamas war.

"The level of death and suffering is hard to fathom," WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier told reporters in Geneva.

- No ceasefire without hostage release -

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday there would be no ceasefire and no fuel delivered to Gaza until Hamas released all hostages.

Netanyahu has previously pledged to destroy the Islamist group.

On Monday, the White House said he and Biden had discussed the potential for "tactical pauses" in the war to allow civilians to flee and enable humanitarian assistance and potential hostage releases.

Speaking in a later ABC interview, Netanyahu said "as far as tactical, little pauses -- an hour here, an hour there -- we've had them before".

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- Red Cross decries 'moral failing' -

A month after the war erupted, the International Committee of the Red Cross demanded Tuesday an end to the horrific suffering of civilians, especially children, decrying a "moral failing".

"Children have been ripped from their families and held hostage. In Gaza, ICRC surgeons treat toddlers whose skin is charred from widespread burns," the organisation's president Mirjana Spoljaric said. "This is a moral failing," she added.

Spoljaric also called for the immediate release of hostages seized by Hamas.

"They play no part in this conflict and we reiterate our offer as neutral actor to facilitate any future release operation."

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- US opposes Gaza occupation -

Despite growing calls for a ceasefire, Netanyahu has made clear there will not be one unless the hostages are freed.

He has said Israel would assume "overall security" in Gaza after the war ends, while allowing for possible "tactical pauses" before then to free captives and deliver aid to the besieged territory of 2.4 million people.

However, Washington said Tuesday it opposed a new long-term occupation of Gaza by Israel.

"Our viewpoint is that Palestinians must be at the forefront of these decisions and Gaza is Palestinian land and it will remain Palestinian land," said State Department spokesman Vedant Patel.

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"Generally speaking, we do not support the reoccupation of Gaza and neither does Israel."

Israel withdrew from the territory, which it captured in the 1967 Six-Day War, in 2005.

On Tuesday UN rights chief Volker Turk called the month that followed the attack one marked by "carnage, of incessant suffering, bloodshed, destruction, outrage and despair".

Since the attack, Israel has relentlessly hammered Gaza with more than 12,000 air and artillery strikes and sent in ground forces that have effectively cut it in half.

- 'Moral failing' -

It has air-dropped leaflets and sent texts ordering civilians in northern Gaza to flee south, but a US official said Saturday at least 350,000 civilians remained in the worst-hit areas.

Clutching one of her toddlers, Amira al-Sakani recounted how she left Gaza City after coming across the air-dropped Israeli flyers.

On the way, Sakani said she saw "bodies of martyrs, some in pieces, people abandoning their cars and cattle to walk.

"Our life is tragic; we don't want war... we want peace."

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The suffering in Gaza has been immense, with entire city blocks levelled and bodies in white shrouds piling up outside hospitals where surgeons operate on bloodied floors by the light of phones.

The World Health Organization said an average of 160 children are killed every day in Gaza by the war.

"The level of death and suffering is hard to fathom," WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier told reporters in Geneva.

The International Committee of the Red Cross, which said one of its humanitarian convoys in Gaza was hit by gunfire on Tuesday, demanded an end to the suffering of civilians, especially children.

"Children have been ripped from their families and held hostage. In Gaza, ICRC surgeons treat toddlers whose skin is charred from widespread burns," the organisation's president Mirjana Spoljaric said. "This is a moral failing," she added.

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Military analysts warned of weeks of gruelling house-to-house fighting ahead in Gaza.

"Hamas has had 15 years to prepare a dense 'defence in depth' that integrates subterranean, ground-level and above-ground fortifications," said Michael Knights of the Washington Institute think-tank.

The operation is hugely complicated for Israel because of the hostages, including very young children and frail elderly people, who are believed to be held inside a tunnel network spanning hundreds of kilometres (miles).

Israel's top ally, the United States, has backed it in its war on Hamas, but also urged restraint and facilitated some aid deliveries and the flight of several hundred refugees with second passports through the Rafah crossing with Egypt.

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- 'Little pauses' -

US State Department spokesman Patel said "more than 400 US citizens" have now left Gaza through Rafah.

Hundreds of Palestinians who hold foreign passports waited on Tuesday in Gaza to leave.

While most still queued nervously, the first arrivals were seen on the Egyptian side where paramedics transferred an injured woman on a stretcher into an ambulance.

Tuesday was the fifth day Gaza's sole land crossing not controlled by Israel has opened in the past week, to wounded Palestinians, foreigners and Palestinian dual nationals.

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Netanyahu told ABC News on Monday the war would continue until Israel had restored overall control of Gaza.

"Israel will, for an indefinite period... have the overall security responsibility," he said. "When we don't have that security responsibility, what we have is the eruption of Hamas terror on a scale that we couldn't imagine."

He stressed that "there will be no ceasefire -- general ceasefire -- in Gaza, without the release of our hostages.

"As far as tactical, little pauses -- an hour here, an hour there -- we've had them before.

"I suppose we'll check the circumstances in order to enable goods -- humanitarian goods -- to come in or our hostages, individual hostages, to leave," he added.

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- US diplomacy -

Around 30 Israeli soldiers have been killed in the offensive, the latest on Monday, according to a report from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, citing Israeli sources.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, after a Middle East tour of crisis diplomacy, was in Tokyo on Tuesday for a meeting of G7 foreign ministers set to seek a common line on Gaza as calls mount for a ceasefire.

In the occupied West Bank on Sunday, he suggested the Palestinian Authority under president Mahmud Abbas should retake control.

Abbas said the PA could return to power in Gaza in the future only if a "comprehensive political solution" is found for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

MSF says staff member killed in Gaza bombing

An employee of medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has been killed in Gaza along with several family members, the group said Tuesday.

Mohammed Al Ahel, a laboratory technician, was killed in his home in the Shati refugee camp when the area was bombed and his building collapsed, MSF said in a statement.

"Today, Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) is mourning the loss of one of our team members in Gaza, Mohammed Al Ahel, who was killed along with several members of his family on November 6," the medical charity said.

"It is clear that no place in Gaza is safe from brutal and indiscriminate bombing," it said.

"Our repeated calls for an immediate ceasefire have gone unanswered, but we insist that it is the only way to prevent more senseless deaths across Gaza and allow adequate humanitarian aid into the Strip," the charity said.

Claire Magone, General Director of MSF France, told reporters on Tuesday that Gaza's people had been "bled dry" and rescue workers are "practically powerless".

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), citing figures from the Hamas-run ministry of health, 192 health workers have been killed since the start of the war.

Citing the World Health Organization, OCHA said 16 health workers were killed while on duty.

Gaza has been under Israeli bombardment since Hamas carried out an attack of unprecedented scale on October 7, killing 1,400 people, mostly civilians, according to Israeli officials.

The Hamas-controlled health ministry in Gaza says the war has killed more than 10,300 people, many of them children, in the Palestinian territory.


AFP


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