Monday, December 4, 2023

Israel continues to pound Gaza for 4th night, over 1,055 Palestinians martyred

Israel continues to pound Gaza for 4th night, over 1,055  Palestinians martyred
October 11, 2023 Web Desk

JERUSALEM/GAZA/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Israeli warplanes bombed Gaza repeatedly overnight ahead of a possible ground offensive, while US President Joe Biden described the Palestinian militant group's surprise assault on Israel as 'sheer evil' and issued a warning apparently aimed at its Iranian backers.

Israel said dozens of its fighter jets struck more than 200 targets in a neighbourhood of Gaza City that it said had been used by Hamas to launch its unprecedented wave of attacks.

Israeli troops have martyred at least 1,000 Palestinian gunmen who infiltrated from Gaza in incursions that began at the weekend, and have reinforced all communities in Israel as hostilities spread to other fronts, the military said.

Gaza's health ministry said at least 1,055 people had been martyred and 5,000 injured in the crowded coastal enclave since Saturday, when Hamas gunmen rampaged through parts of southern Israel in the deadliest Palestinian militant attack in Israel's history.

Former Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal called for protests across the Arab world on Friday in support of the Palestinians, in a recorded statement seen by Reuters. Israel's Security Minister said he was stepping up the issuing of firearms to licensed citizens, predicting possible friction between the country's Arab minority and majority Jews.

Hamas militants holding Israeli soldiers and civilians hostage on Monday threatened to execute a captive for each home in Gaza hit without warning, but there was no indication they had done so.

Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, speaking to soldiers near the Gaza fence on Tuesday, said: "Hamas wanted a change and it will get one. What was in Gaza will no longer be. We started the offensive from the air, later on we will also come from the ground. We've been controlling the area since Day 2 and we are on the offensive. It will only intensify."

A ground offensive carries risks for Israel, notably to the lives of many hostages held in the narrow, densely populated Gaza Strip which is tightly controlled by Hamas. Washington said it was talking with Israel and Egypt about the idea of safe passage for civilians from Gaza, now under total blockade.

At least 1,000 gunmen who had infiltrated from Gaza had been killed, the Israel Hayom newspaper reported.

Israel withdrew troops from Gaza in 2005 after 38 years of occupation, and has kept it under blockade since Hamas seized power there in 2007. The siege it announced on Monday would keep out food and fuel.

On Israel's northern border, a salvo of rockets was fired from southern Lebanon towards Israel, prompting Israeli shelling in return, three security sources said. More shells launched from Syrian territory landed in open areas in Israel, further raising fears that the violence could lead to a wider war.

"We do not yet know if these rockets were fired by the Syrian armed forces, by any of the many Iranian militias that exist and are welcomed by the Syrian regime, or Hezbollah or any other action," said Israel's Lieutenant Colonel Conricus.

"What we do know is that we retaliated fire toward the sources of fire, and currently the situation there is quiet." Sirens warning of incoming rocket fire blared overnight in Israeli communities near the Gaza border.


Palestinian media said Israeli airstrikes hit homes in Gaza City, the southern city of Khan Younis and in the Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza.

One home struck belonged to the father of Mohammed Deif, the leader of Hamas' armed wing in Gaza, reports said. Deif's brother and other family members were killed, according to the reports.

Residents appealing for help on social media said many buildings had collapsed, sometimes trapping as many as 50 people inside with rescue workers unable to reach them.

The United Nations said more than 180,000 Gazans had been made homeless, many huddling on streets or in schools.

At the morgue in Gaza's Khan Younis hospital, bodies lay on the ground on stretchers with names written on their bellies. Medics called for relatives to pick up bodies quickly because there was no more space for the dead.

A municipal building was hit while being used as an emergency shelter. Survivors there spoke of many dead. "No place is safe in Gaza, as you see they hit everywhere," said Ala Abu Tair, 35, who had sought shelter there with his family after fleeing Abassan Al-Kabira near the border. Two members of Hamas' political office, Jawad Abu Shammala and Zakaria Abu Maamar, were killed in an air strike in Khan Younis, a Hamas official said.

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry said Israeli strikes had since Saturday destroyed more than 22,600 residential units and 10 health facilities and damaged 48 schools.

"Such blatant dehumanization and attempts to bomb a people into submission, to use starvation as a method of warfare, and to eradicate their national existence are nothing less than genocidal," Palestinian U.N. envoy Riyad Mansour wrote in a letter to the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday, seen by Reuters.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk, who denounced the Hamas attacks, said: "International humanitarian law is clear: the obligation to take constant care to spare the civilian population and civilian objects remains applicable throughout the attacks."

Violence also flared in the occupied West Bank and in East Jerusalem, where Israeli police said they killed two Palestinians who shot fireworks toward officers on Tuesday night.

In the West Bank, 21 Palestinians have been killed and 130 injured in clashes with Israeli forces since Saturday, according to the Palestinian health ministry.