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UN ‘gravely concerned’ by Israeli strikes on Gaza

The United Nations has said it is “gravely concerned” by Israel’s continued bombardment of central Gaza and urged Israeli forces to take all available measures to protect civilians.

The UN Human Rights Office said all attacks had to adhere to international humanitarian law.

“We are gravely concerned about the continued bombardment of Middle Gaza by Israeli forces,” rights office spokesman Seif Magango said in a statement.

“It is particularly concerning that this latest intense bombardment comes after Israeli forces ordered residents from the south of Wadi Gaza to move to Middle Gaza and Tal al-Sultan in Rafah.”

Mr Magango said the death toll from such strikes came amid “a deepening and already catastrophic humanitarian situation”.

He said roads to the camps had been damaged, “obstructing relief aid from reaching those in need, and shelters and hospitals still minimally operating are critically overcrowded and under-resourced”.

“We restate our warning that all attacks must strictly adhere to the principles of international humanitarian law, including distinction, proportionality and precaution in attack,” Mr Magango added.

“Israeli forces must take all measures available to protect civilians. Warnings and evacuation orders do not absolve them of the full range of their international humanitarian law obligations.”

Internet and telephone services were cut again across Gaza, the Palestinian telecommunications company Paltel said.

“We regret to announce a complete breakdown of fixed telecommunications and internet services in the Gaza Strip due to the ongoing offensive,” the company said, announcing the fourth such breakdown since the war began on 7 October.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pledged no respite in attacks on Hamas.

Israel is determined to pursue its goal of destroying Hamas despite global calls for a ceasefire in the 11-week-old war, amid concerns the conflict could spread with US and Iran-aligned forces attacking each other elsewhere in the region.

Since Hamas made the deadliest Palestinian militant attack on Israel in the country’s 75-year history, Mr Netanyahu has responded with an all-out assault on Hamas-ruled Gaza.

The Israeli military said 160 soldiers have so far been killed in Gaza since ground operations began on 20 October.

“Seventy-five years of suffering, our rights taken, our country seized, and our people slaughtered. Our rights, as people, are justifiable. What can we do?” said Mariam al-Omsi, walking along an alleyway after an air strike in Shaboura camp, near the town of Rafah in southern Gaza.

At Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, the largest medical facility in southern Gaza, medics said ten people had been killed in two separate Israeli air strikes.

In Jerusalem, Israel’s military said the air force carried out a strike against 100 Hamas targets, including tunnel shafts, to assist ground forces.

Girls search through the rubble of destroyed homes in Rafah, Gaza

It said in a statement that in Shejaia, a suburb near Gaza City, troops backed by aircraft killed several fighters spotted trying to plant a bomb underneath a tank. More than ten fighters were killed in separate incidents in Khan Younis.

Mr Netanyahu, who visited Israeli troops in northern Gaza yesterday, told MPs from his Likud Party that the war was far from over and dismissed what he cast as media speculation his government might call a halt to the fighting.

He said Israel would not succeed in freeing its remaining hostages held by Hamas without applying military pressure.

“We are not stopping. The war will continue until the end, until we finish it, no less,” Mr Netanyahu said.

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In an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal yesterday, Mr Netanyahu reiterated three prerequisites for peace: Hamas must be destroyed, Gaza must be demilitarised, and Palestinian society must be deradicalised.

Retaliating against Hamas’ attack on 7 October, in which it killed 1,200 people and took about 240 hostage, Israel has been under pressure from top ally the US to shift to lower-intensity warfare and to reduce civilian deaths.

The Gaza health ministry said 20,915 people have been killed, including 241 in the last 24 hours.

The death toll in Gaza is nearing 21,000, according to officials in the Hamas-ruled enclave

Elsewhere in the region, US forces have come under attack by Iran-backed militants in Iraq and Syria over Washington’s backing of Israel in its war against Hamas.

Meanwhile, Gemma Connell, a UN team leader deployed in Gaza, described what she called a “human chess board” in which thousands of people, displaced many times already, are on the run again and there is no guarantee a destination will be safe.

A spokesperson for the Israeli military said the army takes all feasible precautions to minimise harm to civilians, but that Palestinian militants use civilians as human shields – an accusation Hamas denies.

Since the 7 October Hamas attack, Israel has laid much of Gaza to waste. The vast majority of Gaza’s 2.3 million population have been driven from their homes, and the United Nations says humanitarian conditions are catastrophic.

The Gaza war has also stoked violence in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, another territory where Palestinians seek statehood. Medics said two Palestinian males, aged 17 and 31, were shot dead by Israeli troops near the West Bank city of Hebron.

A military spokesperson said soldiers opened fire at Palestinians who threw rocks, cinder blocks and petrol bombs at them.

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