Israel bombs Gaza as pressure mounts to protect civilians

DEC 3, 2023 LISTEN

Israel struck Gaza targets Sunday in its war on Hamas sparked by the 7 October attacks, as international concern deepened over the mounting civilian death toll on the third day of fighting after a truce ended.

More than 15,500 people have been killed in the besieged Palestinian territory, according to the Hamas-run health ministry, in more than eight weeks of combat and heavy bombardment.

Israeli air and artillery strikes hit Gaza's northern frontier with Israel, throwing thick clouds of smoke and dust into the sky.

The Israeli army reported 17 rocket salvos from Gaza into Israel on Sunday, adding that most were intercepted and there was only slight material damage.

The UN humanitarian agency OCHA said at least 160 Palestinian deaths were reported in two incidents in northern Gaza Saturday: the bombing of a six-storey building in Jabalia refugee camp, and of an entire block in Gaza City.

Repeated bursts of heavy automatic weapons fire were heard over an AFPTV livecam.

The war broke out when Hamas militants burst through Gaza's militarised border into Israel on 7 October and killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, while also taking around 240 hostages, according to Israeli authorities.

A seven-day truce, brokered by Qatar with support from Egypt and the United States, led to the release of 80 Israeli hostages in exchange for 240 Palestinian prisoners before it expired early Friday. More than two dozen other captives were freed from Gaza under separate arrangements.

After the unprecedented attacks, Israel unleashed an air and ground campaign with the stated aim of destroying Hamas, which Gaza authorities say has killed mostly women and children.    

'No safe place'

The Israeli military said it had carried out around 10,000 air strikes since the war started.

The army also said it had located more than 800 shafts to Hamas tunnels and "destroyed" about 500 of them, adding that many were near or inside civilian buildings such as schools and mosques.

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk voiced alarm that hundreds of thousands of Gazans "are being confined into ever smaller areas" in the southern of the territory.

"There is no safe place in Gaza," he said.
Hamas and another militant group, Islamic Jihad, announced "rocket barrages" against multiple Israeli cities and towns including Tel Aviv, and Israel said two of its soldiers had died in combat, the first since the truce ended.

The military said a drone strike had "eliminated" five Hamas militants.

Fighter jets and helicopters had also struck "tunnel shafts, command centres and weapons storage facilities" while naval forces hit Hamas vessels and weapons, it said.

Fighting also flared on Israel's northern border with Lebanon.

The Israeli army said it had launched artillery strikes in response to cross-border fire, and its fighter jets hit a number of targets linked to Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

Iran-backed Hezbollah said it had launched several attacks on Israeli positions, including a missile strike on a military vehicle.

'Too many' innocents killed

Israel's ally the United States, which provides it with billions of dollars in military aid annually, has intensified calls for the protection of Gaza's civilians.

"Too many innocent Palestinians have been killed," Vice President Kamala Harris told reporters at UN climate talks in Dubai.

Israeli government spokesman Eylon Levy said that the blame for the deaths lay with Hamas and those killed "would still be alive" had the group not carried out the October 7 attacks.

In a new estimate, OCHA said around 1.8 million people in Gaza, roughly 75 percent of the population, had been displaced, many to overcrowded and unsanitary shelters.

Jumana Murad said her son Mohammad, 19, was killed as he tried to help women and children out of a tent inside a school.

"A piece of shrapnel hit him in the head," she told AFP before bursting into tears.

Nasser hospital in the southern Gaza city of Khan Yunis overflowed with both the wounded and the dead.

World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that some patients there were being treated on the floor, in conditions "unimaginable for the provision of health care".

Gazans are short of food, water and other essentials, and the aid reaching them is "a drop in the ocean of needs," said Adnan Abu Hasna, a spokesman for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA.

Pope Francis deplored "so much suffering in Gaza", and urged those involved to reach a new ceasefire deal.