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Martyrs' toll at 8,525, including 3,542 children as Israel-Hamas war rages in Gaza

Martyrs' toll at 8,525, including 3,542 children as Israel-Hamas war rages in Gaza
October 31, 2023 Web Desk

GAZA, Palestine (AFP) - Gaza's Hamas-run health ministry said Tuesday that at least 8,525 people have been martyred in the Palestinian territory since the start of the war with Israel on October 7.

The ministry said at least 3,542 children and 2,187 women were among the martyrs, as Israel pressed on with its air and ground campaign against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. In West Bank, the Israeli army demolished the home of exiled Hamas number two Saleh al-Aruri with explosives as war raged with the Islamist group in Gaza.

The Israeli military said forces entered the village of Arura, near Ramallah, and shot at people who were "hurling" rocks towards them during the demolition. Aruri is accused by Israel of masterminding numerous attacks. He was elected deputy to Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh in 2017, before being officially named the group's number two.

Israeli troops pushed deeper into Gaza Tuesday, driving tanks and armoured bulldozers through the rubble of shattered buildings and hunting for Hamas militants.

Army footage showed soldiers, who are also seeking to free at least 240 hostages, advancing through a devastated landscape, with buildings reduced to a mangled mess of stone and twisted metal by weeks of relentless Israeli bombing.

Israel said it had struck 300 targets in the fourth night of land operations in Gaza, coming under Hamas anti-tank and machine-gun fire, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed growing international calls for a ceasefire.

AFPTV footage over Gaza showed a huge plume of smoke billowing up from another Israeli strike. The bombing campaign has killed 8,306 people, according to Gaza's Hamas-run health ministry, many of them children.

Images taken by AFP reporters in Gaza showed Palestinians combing the rubble in a desperate search for survivors, and praying over the bodies over those killed, wrapped in white shrouds.

Netanyahu said pausing operations now would be a "surrender" to the Palestinian militant group responsible for brutal raids on Israeli homes, farms and villages that killed an estimated 1,400 people and saw at least 240 hostages taken according to the latest count given by Israeli officials.

But the humanitarian toll has sparked a global backlash, with aid groups and the United Nations saying time is running out for many of the territory's 2.4 million people denied access to food, water, fuel and medicine.

Surgeons are conducting amputations and other operations on hospital floors without anaesthetic, and children are forced to drink salty water, said Jean-Francois Corty, vice-president of Medecins Sans Frontieres, which has 20 staff on the ground.

Rizk Abu Rok, a 24-year-old paramedic with the Palestinian Red Crescent, told AFP he arrived at the scene of a strike at a cafe only to find his father and several other relatives dead. "I rushed to the emergency room and found my father there. He had a head wound. I knew immediately that he was dead," he said. "I collapsed and lost my nerve. The nurses brought me outside to calm me down."

Israel has accused Hamas of using hospitals as military headquarters and civilians as "human shields", charges the militants dismiss as "baseless" propaganda.