Israel launches fresh strikes on Gaza as UN nears vote on aid

One Israeli strike on the Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza on Sunday killed 90 Palestinians, Gaza's Health Ministry spokesperson told Reuters

Updated - December 19, 2023 05:39 pm IST

Published - December 18, 2023 09:26 pm IST - GAZA/JERUSALEM

Israeli soldiers stand on top of an Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) near the border with Gaza, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Southern Israel, December 18, 2023.

Israeli soldiers stand on top of an Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) near the border with Gaza, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Southern Israel, December 18, 2023. | Photo Credit: REUTERS

Israeli forces launched fresh attacks throughout the night across the Gaza Strip, residents said on Monday, as the United Nations Security Council looked set to vote on a demand that Israel and Hamas allow aid access to the Palestinian enclave.

One Israeli strike on the Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza on Sunday killed 90 Palestinians, Gaza's Health Ministry spokesperson told Reuters.

Another missile attack on a house belonging to the Shehab family killed 24 people, Hamas Aqsa radio said. A medic said dozens of people had been killed or wounded in the Shehab family home and nearby buildings.

"We believe the number of dead people under the rubble is huge but there is no way to remove the rubble and recover them because of the intensity of Israeli fire," he said by telephone on Sunday.

In Deir al-Balah, central Gaza, medics said 12 Palestinians had been killed and dozens wounded, while in Rafah in the south, an Israeli air strike on a house left at least four people dead.

People rushed to the building to rescue those trapped under the rubble. The sound of the explosion was "as powerful as an earthquake", Mahmoud Jarbou, who lives nearby, told Reuters.

The Israeli government said it operated against militant targets and that it takes extraordinary measures to avoid hitting civilians.

An Israeli tank shell hit the maternity building inside the Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, killing a 13-year-old girl named Dina Abu Mehsen, according to Gaza health ministry spokesman Ashraf Al-Qidra.

Al-Qidra said that Abu Mehsen had previously lost her father, mother, two of her siblings, and one of her legs during the shelling of a house in the Al-Amal neighborhood in Khan Younis a few weeks ago.

Pope Francis on Sunday again suggested Israel was using "terrorism" tactics in Gaza, deploring the reported killing by the Israeli military of two Christian women who had taken refuge in a church complex.

At his weekly blessing, Mr. Francis referred to a statement about an incident on Saturday by the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, the Catholic authority in the Holy Land.

Around 19,000 Palestinians have been killed, according to Gaza health officials, since October 7 when Hamas militants killed 1,200 people, according to Israeli authorities, and captured 240 hostages in their surprise raid.

The Israeli military released the names of four more soldiers who had died in combat in Gaza, bringing to 126 the number of soldiers killed in the strip since Israel launched a ground invasion in late October.

Israel's war on Hamas has razed large parts of Gaza and displaced the majority of its 2.3 million residents, many now living in makeshift shelters without clean water and food and fighting diseases.

Human Rights Watch said on Monday that Israel was using starvation as a weapon by deliberately blocking the delivery of water, food, fuel and razing agricultural areas.

"For over two months, Israel has been depriving Gaza's population of food and water ... reflecting an intent to starve civilians as a method of warfare," Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch said in a statement.

The Kerem Shalom crossing between Israel and Gaza opened for aid trucks on Sunday for the first time since the outbreak of war, officials said, in a move to double the amount of food and medicine reaching Gazans.

The United Nations Security Council could vote as early as Monday on a proposal to demand that Israel and Hamas allow aid access to the Gaza Strip - via land, sea and air routes - and set up U.N. monitoring of the humanitarian assistance delivered.

Diplomats said the fate of the draft Security Council resolution hinges on final negotiations between Israel ally and council veto power, the United States, and the United Arab Emirates, which has drafted the text.

"The UAE knows exactly what can pass and what cannot — it is up to them if they want to get this done," said a U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Hopes for another ceasefire and hostage releases had been raised on Saturday when a source said Israel's spy chief had spoken on Friday with the prime minister of Qatar, which has previously mediated hostage releases in return for a week-long ceasefire and the freeing of Palestinian prisoners.

Two security sources from Egypt - another mediator - said on Sunday Israel and Hamas were both open to a renewed ceasefire and hostage release, though disagreements remained on how it would be implemented.

"We are open to any efforts aimed at ending the Israeli aggression. This is the ground for any discussion," Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri said when asked for comment on the Egyptian statement.

But Israeli authorities said they were determined to fight on to eliminate Hamas, which has run Gaza since 2006 and is sworn to Israel's destruction.

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