Israel-Gaza war: Israel expands attacks on Gaza amid Netanyahu's plan to "thin out" population

Gaza - Israel expanded its offensive against besieged Gaza on Monday, as international concern deepened over the mounting Palestinian civilian death toll.

Smoke rises at the site of a house destroyed in an Israeli strike in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on December 4, 2023.
Smoke rises at the site of a house destroyed in an Israeli strike in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on December 4, 2023.  © REUTERS

The return to open attacks after a temporary truce between Israel and Hamas broke down has had ripple effects around the region.

Since the expiry of the truce on Friday, the indiscriminate bombing of Gaza has resumed, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructing his aide Ron Dermer to "thin out" Gaza's population "to a minimum," the Israel Hayom newspaper reported last Friday.

Over the weekend, Israeli air strikes on northern Gaza threw thick clouds of smoke and dust into the sky.

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On Sunday, the Israeli army reported a string of rocket salvos from Gaza into Israel, adding that most had been intercepted.

Gaza's government and the official Palestinian news agency Wafa said a strike had hit the entrance of the Kamal Adwan hospital in the north of the territory late Sunday.

Several people were killed in the strike, the news agency said, while Hamas accused Israel on Telegram of a "grave violation" of humanitarian law.

Contacted by AFP, the Israeli military did not immediately comment on the alleged strike.

Israel claims Hamas uses hospitals and other civilian infrastructure for military purposes – an accusation the group denies.

"The IDF continues to expand its ground operation against main Hamas fronts in the Gaza Strip," Israel military spokesperson Daniel Hagari said on Sunday.

"Wherever there is a Hamas stronghold, the IDF operates," he said, referring to the Israel Defense Forces.

Israel wages war on Palestinian children

A Palestinian girl sits on the floor after she was rushed to the hospital following an Israeli strike at Nasser hospital in Khan Younis on December 3, 2023.
A Palestinian girl sits on the floor after she was rushed to the hospital following an Israeli strike at Nasser hospital in Khan Younis on December 3, 2023.  © REUTERS

The health ministry in Gaza says more than 15,500 people have been killed in the territory since October 7, more than half of them women and children.

Israel has also launched attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank, which is not controlled by Hamas.

Under a truce mediated by Qatar with support from Egypt and the United States, 80 Israeli hostages were freed, in exchange for the release of 240 Palestinian political prisoners held in Israeli jails. More than two dozen other captives were also freed from Gaza.

However, the Israeli siege resumed on Friday despite international calls for an extension. The next day, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said Israeli negotiators were being withdrawn from Qatar "following the impasse in the negotiations" aimed at renewing the truce.

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With 137 hostages still held in Gaza, according to the Israeli military, Hamas has ruled out more releases until a permanent ceasefire is agreed.

On Sunday, the Israeli military said it had carried out around 10,000 air strikes since the war started.

Israel says five of its soldiers have died in combat since the end of the truce, three of them on Sunday.

"In the past few hours, only 316 dead and 664 injured people have been rescued from the rubble and taken to hospital, but many others are still stuck under the rubble," Gaza's health ministry spokesperson Ashraf al-Qudra said in a statement.

The mounting death toll in Gaza has sparked growing international concern over Israeli genocide. On Sunday, hospitals in southern Gaza were overflowing with dead and wounded, some crying out in pain.

"I am running out of ways to describe the horrors hitting children here," James Elder, a spokesperson for the United Nations children's agency UNICEF, said in a video from Nasser hospital in Khan Yunis.

"This is the worst bombardment of the war right now in south Gaza. I am seeing massive child casualties," he said in the video, posted on X, formerly Twitter.

Nine-year-old Huda, who was wounded in the head, arrived at the Deir al-Balah hospital with an International Committee of the Red Cross convoy bringing casualties from northern Gaza.

"She doesn't answer me any more," her father Abdelkarim Abu Warda said, sobbing.

US continues to back Israel's brutal siege

Demonstrators draped in white cloths lie on the ground in a "die in" outside the White House to protest US government support for Israel's genocide.
Demonstrators draped in white cloths lie on the ground in a "die in" outside the White House to protest US government support for Israel's genocide.  © REUTERS

Israel's ally the United States, which provides it with billions of dollars in military aid annually, has intensified calls for the protection of Gaza's civilians.

"Too many innocent Palestinians have been killed," Vice President Kamala Harris told reporters at UN climate talks in Dubai.

A White House official said Sunday the United States believes Israel is "making an effort" to minimize civilian casualties in Gaza.

However, many Americans believe the administration's words are too little, too late, as President Joe Biden still refuses to call for a permanent ceasefire and the conditioning of US aid on Israeli compliance with international law.

With the focus of the war on Gaza, the West Bank has also seen an uptick in violence since October.

According to Wafa, Israeli troops conducted on Monday a raid into the occupied West Bank city of Jenin and neighboring villages, with clashes erupting as the soldiers went in.

With fears of a wider regional conflagration rising, a US destroyer shot down multiple drones over the Red Sea while assisting commercial ships on Sunday, according to the US Central Command.

Yemen's Iran-backed Huthi rebels – who said they targeted two of the ships – launched a series of drones and missiles towards Israel in recent weeks and seized a cargo vessel last month, but the latest attacks mark a significant escalation in the threat to shipping in the area.

In Iraq, an air strike killed at least five pro-Iranian militants on Sunday, according to Iraqi security sources, a day after Baghdad warned Washington against "attacks" on its territory.

Fighting also flared on Israel's northern border with Lebanon.

The Israeli army said it had launched artillery strikes in response to cross-border fire, and its fighter jets hit a number of targets linked to Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

Hezbollah said it had launched several attacks on Israeli positions, including a missile strike on a military vehicle.

Cover photo: REUTERS

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