Israel’s advance into Gaza to eliminate Hamas militants continued to take a bloody toll on both sides, just days after the United Nations approved a weakened resolution calling for aid to the war-torn region.
Around 70 people were killed in an Israeli airstrike in central Gaza on Sunday, including at least a dozen women and seven children, according to initial hospital figures. The strike hit the Maghazi refugee camp, east of Deir al-Balah, and was condemned by the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Fifteen Israeli soldiers were killed over the weekend, the Israeli army announced on Sunday.
The rising number of deaths came as a pall hung over Bethlehem, where war led to the cancellation of Christmas Eve celebrations. “Our message every year at Christmas is a message of peace and love, but this year it is a message of sadness, sorrow and anger in front of the international community at what is happening and happening in the strip of Gaza,” said Bethlehem Mayor Hana Haniyeh. .
Israeli ground forces continued to press on Sunday, widening their offensive in northern and southern Gaza to Khan Younis, Gaza’s second-largest city, Israeli army spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet on Sunday that the nation had “no choice but to continue fighting,” whatever the cost. “We continue with all our strength, until the end, until victory, until we achieve all our goals.”
Israel began its siege of Gaza three weeks after Hamas militants’ brutal attack on Israeli border communities on October 7, which left 1,200 people dead. Of the 240 people taken hostage, 129 remain captive after some were released and others died. Around 154 Israeli soldiers were killed during the ground offensive.
The war has destroyed the Gaza Strip: around 20,400 Palestinians have been killed. Nearly 85% of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents have been displaced and most hospitals are barely functioning. International medical officials warned last week that disease and lack of food were leading to catastrophic conditions.
“Gaza is already experiencing a sharp rise in infectious diseases. More than 100,000 cases of diarrhea have been reported since mid-October. Half of them concern young children under the age of 5,” the World Organization said. of health.
Deathblow:Israeli strikes kill at least 90, Gaza officials say
∎ During a Sunday evening mass, Pope Francis referred to Bethlehem, which holds a special place in Catholic doctrine as the birthplace of Jesus. “Our hearts are in Bethlehem,” he said during mass at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. “The Prince of Peace is once again rejected by the vain logic of war.”
∎ An Iranian drone struck a chemical tanker in the Indian Ocean, the Pentagon confirmed Sunday in a statement to USA TODAY. There were no casualties and no US Navy ships were nearby, the Pentagon said. Saturday’s attack on a Liberian-flagged, Japanese-owned and Dutch-operated chemical tanker was the seventh Iranian strike against a commercial vessel since 2021, the Pentagon said. This incident comes against a backdrop of escalating tensions in the region since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas.
∎ Protesters took to the streets of Tel Aviv on Saturday evening to protest the government and demand that Israel do more to bring the hostages home. Many chanted “Bibi, Bibi, we don’t want you anymore,” referring to Netanyahu by his nickname.
The anguish of an American doctor:Family stuck in Gaza ‘barely surviving’
UN official calls again for humanitarian ceasefire
Filippo Grandi, the United Nations high commissioner for refugees, on Sunday echoed calls from other senior U.N. officials for a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza to allow the delivery of help and help free the hostages.
“For aid to reach those in need, for hostages to be released, for more displacement to be avoided and, above all, for devastating loss of life to end the humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza, this is the only way to move forward,” Grandi wrote on X, the platform formerly known as “X.” like Twitter.
A U.N. Security Council resolution approved Friday removed language from a previous draft that called for an “urgent cessation of hostilities” to appease the United States, which had vetoed two previous resolutions. Instead, the resolution calls for “urgent measures to immediately enable safe and unimpeded humanitarian access, and also to create the conditions for a lasting cessation of hostilities.”
The final resolution was adopted after the United States abstained in the vote.
It was unclear when aid deliveries would pick up again after the U.N. resolution. Trucks enter through two crossing points: Rafah, on the Egyptian border, and Kerem Shalom, on the border with Israel. Fewer than 100 trucks entered on Friday, the UN said. And both crossings were closed on Saturday.
As international calls for a truce continue to grow, President Joe Biden spoke with Netanyahu on Saturday. He said he had not called for a ceasefire, while Netanyahu’s office said the prime minister “made clear that Israel would continue the war until it achieved all its goals “.
Christmas Eve canceled in Bethlehem
Christmas Eve was silenced in Bethlehem on Sunday, another grim reminder of the war between Israel and Hamas.
Dozens of Palestinian security forces patrolled an empty Manger Square in this West Bank city. The biblical birthplace of Jesus would normally be a vibrant scene of cheering tourists, Christmas lights, marching bands and festive music.
“This year, without a Christmas tree and without lights, it’s just darkness,” said Brother John Vinh, a Franciscan monk from Vietnam who has lived in Jerusalem for six years.
Local authorities say more than 70 hotels in Bethlehem have been closed, leaving thousands of people unemployed. There were few foreign visitors and only a handful of shops were open on Sunday.
“We cannot justify cutting down a tree and celebrating as usual, when some people (in Gaza) don’t even have a house to go to,” said Ala’a Salameh, one from the owners of Afteem restaurant, a family restaurant. falafel restaurant owned by Manger Square.
Contributor: Associated Press
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