Killer Israel continues to pound Gaza as martyrs' toll reaches 27,585
GAZA, Palestine (AFP) - Heavy strikes and fighting in Gaza martyred at least 107 people in the past 24 hours, said the Health Ministry in the Hamas-ruled territory that has been under almost four months of bombardment.
The ministry said at least 27,585 people have been martyred in the territory during the war. A total of 66,978 people have been wounded in Gaza since the war broke out on October 7. Fears grew for more than a million Palestinians crowded into the far southern Rafah area as the battlefront draws ever closer in Israel's campaign to eradicate Hamas over the October 7 attack.
Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant warned on Monday that the military "will reach places where we have not yet fought... right up to the last Hamas bastion, which is Rafah", on the Egyptian border. Palestinian Raed al-Bardani, 32, who has been displaced multiple times and now lives in Rafah with his wife and their four children, charged that "the goal is to destroy Rafah because it is the only area that the occupation has not yet destroyed".
"Where will we go if they storm Rafah?" he asked. "Israel will only stop when they have annihilated the people of Gaza." Israeli troops, with air and naval support, have been engaged in heavy combat centred on Gaza's main southern city of Khan Yunis, the hometown of Hamas's Gaza chief, Yahya Sinwar, much of which has been reduced to rubble.
Israel accuses Sinwar of masterminding the October 7 attack, which resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official figures. Militants also seized around 250 hostages. Israel says 132 remain in Gaza including 28 who are believed to have been killed. Israel's withering military campaign has killed at least 27,585 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry.
'No place is safe'
The army said Tuesday that "over the past day, dozens of terrorists have been killed and approximately 80 individuals suspected of involvement in terrorist activity have been apprehended, including a number of terrorists that took part in the October 7 massacre".
It added that army snipers had killed more than 15 militants, and that a naval vessel had fired missiles at a "terrorist cell". An AFP journalist said overnight strikes rocked Khan Yunis and that two air strikes also struck Rafah. "No place is safe, no place at all -- where shall we go?" one Palestinian, Mohamad Kozaat, said after six members of his family, including his daughter, were wounded in an Israeli strike on the border town.
The United States has strongly backed its top regional ally Israel with munitions and diplomatic support, but also urged steps to reduce civilian casualties and to eventually move toward a two-state solution with the Palestinians. The truce Blinken is hoping to seal proposes a six-week pause to fighting as Hamas frees hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel and more aid enters Gaza, according to a Hamas source.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has faced divisions within his cabinet and public fury over the fate of the remaining hostages, said Israel "will not accept" demands Hamas has made for an exchange involving thousands of prisoners. The premier's right-wing Likud party quoted him as saying the terms "should be similar to the previous agreement" in late November, which saw a more limited ratio of Palestinian prisoners exchanged for captives.