Israel-Hamas war: Israeli bombing of Gaza intensifies and death toll surpasses 15,000

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The Health Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza has announced the death toll has surpassed 15,200 and that 70% of those killed were women and children

The figure was announced on Saturday by ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra, who did not provide further details.

The previous toll given by the ministry was more than 13,300 dead. Al-Qidra did not explain the sharp jump. However, the ministry had only been able to provide sporadic updates since 11 November amid problems with connectivity and major war-related disruptions in hospital operations. The ministry does not differentiate between civilians and combatants.

More than 40,000 people have been wounded, al-Qidra said.

Aid trucks enter Rafah crossing for first time since truce ended

A fresh batch of aid trucks has entered through the Egyptian side of the Rafah crossing for the first time since the seven-day truce in Gaza ended, the Palestinian Red Crescent has announced.

“The Palestine Red Crescent crews have now received aid trucks through the Rafah crossing from our partners in the Egypt Red Crescent,” PRCS posted on X – formerly Twitter.

No aid trucks were able to enter the Gaza Strip on Friday as Israel immediately renewed its attacks on the besieged enclave following the conclusion of the truce.

Israel resumes heavy bombing post-truce

Israel has been pounding targets in the southern Gaza Strip, intensifying a renewed offensive that followed a weeklong truce with Hamas and giving rise to renewed concerns about civilian casualties.

At least 400 Palestinians have been killed since the fighting resumed on Friday morning, according to the Health Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza, even as the United States urged ally Israel to do everything possible to protect civilians.

“This is going to be very important going forward,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Friday after meetings with Arab foreign ministers in Dubai, wrapping up his third Middle East tour since the war started. “It’s something we’re going to be looking at very closely.”

Many of Israel’s attacks on Saturday were focused on the Khan Younis area in southern Gaza, where the military said it had struck more than 50 Hamas targets with airstrikes, tank fire and its navy.

Leaflet drops resume – but nowhere for Gazans to go

The IDF dropped leaflets on Friday warning residents to leave but, as of late on Friday, there had been no reports of large numbers of people leaving, according to the United Nations.

“There is no place to go,” lamented Emad Hajar, who fled with his wife and three children from the northern town of Beit Lahia a month ago to seek refuge in Khan Younis.

“They expelled us from the north, and now they are pushing us to leave the south.”

Israel’s military said it also carried out strikes in the north, and hit more than 400 targets in all across the Gaza Strip.

Some 2 million people – almost Gaza’s entire population – are currently crammed into the territory’s south, where Israel urged people to relocate at the war’s start.

Unable to go into north Gaza or neighbouring Egypt, their only escape is to move around within the 220-square-kilometre area.

UN criticises IDF’s evacuation ‘plan’

In response to US calls to protect civilians, the Israeli military released an online map, but it has done more to confuse than to help.

It divides the Gaza Strip into hundreds of numbered, haphazardly drawn parcels, sometimes across roads or blocks, and asks residents to learn the number of their location in case of an eventual evacuation.

“The publication does not specify where people should evacuate to,” the UN office for coordinating humanitarian issues in the Palestinian territory noted in its daily report. “It is unclear how those residing in Gaza would access the map without electricity and amid recurrent telecommunications cuts.”

Egypt has expressed concerns the renewed offensive could cause Palestinians to try to cross into its territory. In a statement late on Friday, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said the forced transfer of Palestinians “is a red line.”

US Vice President Kamala Harris, who was in Dubai on Saturday for the COP28 climate conference, was expected to outline proposals with regional leaders to “put Palestinian voices at the centre” of planning the next steps for the Gaza Strip after the conflict, according to the White House. US President Joe Biden’s administration has been emphasising the need for an eventual two-state solution, with Israel and a Palestinian state coexisting.

What will become of the remaining hostages?

The renewed hostilities have also heightened concerns for 136 hostages who, according to the Israeli military, are still held captive by Hamas and other militants after 105 were freed during the truce. For families of remaining hostages, the truce’s collapse was a blow to hopes their loved ones could be the next out after days of seeing others freed.

The Israeli army said on Friday it had confirmed the deaths of four more hostages, bringing the total of known dead to seven.

During the truce, Israel freed 240 Palestinians from its prisons. Most of those released from both sides were women and children.

A halt on humanitarian aid

Hundreds of thousands of people fled northern Gaza to Khan Younis and other parts of the south earlier in the war, part of an extraordinary mass exodus that has left three-quarters of the population displaced and facing widespread shortages of food, water and other supplies.

Since the resumption of hostilities, no aid convoys or fuel deliveries have entered Gaza, and humanitarian operations within Gaza have largely halted, according to the UN

The International Rescue Committee, an aid group operating in Gaza, warned the return of fighting will “wipe out even the minimal relief” provided by the truce and “prove catastrophic for Palestinian civilians.”

Up until the truce began, more than 13,300 Palestinians were killed in Israel’s assault, roughly two-thirds of them women and minors, according to the Health Ministry in Hamas-controlled Gaza, which does not differentiate between civilians and combatants.

The toll is likely much higher, as officials have only sporadically updated the count since 11 November.

The ministry says thousands more people are feared dead under the rubble.

Israel says it is targeting Hamas operatives and blames civilian casualties on the militants, accusing them of operating in residential neighbourhoods. Israel says 77 of its soldiers have been killed in the ground offensive in northern Gaza. It claims to have killed thousands of militants, without providing evidence.

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