Displaced Palestinians use a donkey cart for transportation at a camp in Rafah near the border with Egypt in the southern Gaza Strip, on Sunday.—AFP
Displaced Palestinians use a donkey cart for transportation at a camp in Rafah near the border with Egypt in the southern Gaza Strip, on Sunday.—AFP

• UN chief slams Israel for ‘heartbreaking’ killings
• Thousands protest seeking Netanyahu’s ouster
• Jerusalem wants Norway to hold Gaza funds

GAZA STRIP: Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry on Sunday said the death toll in the war-torn Palestinian territory breached 25,000 as Israel pushed its southward offensive and renewed bombardment in the north.

Israel is pressing its push against Hamas in southern Gaza as it seeks to destroy the group responsible for the deadliest attack in the country’s history.

In early January, Israel’s military said the Hamas command structure in northern Gaza had been dismantled, leaving only isolated fighters.

But witnesses told AFP that Israeli boats were bombarding Gaza City and other areas in the north early Sunday. Hamas has also reported heavy combat in the north.

“Dozens are still under the rubble,” the Hamas government’s media office said, adding that the dead and injured “could not be transferred to hospitals due to the continued artillery shelling on… Khan Yunis and the Tal Al-Hawa area in Gaza City and the north”.

The Israeli army said it “eliminated a number” of fighters in the main southern city of Khan Yunis and killed 15 in northern Gaza over the past day.

Thick plumes of smoke billowed above Khan Yunis on Sunday morning, AFP journalists saw.

Israel’s relentless bombardment and ground offensive have killed at least 25,105 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

In a briefing on Saturday evening, Israeli military spokesman Daniel Hagari said troops had found a tunnel in Khan Yunis where hostages had been kept. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is under intense pressure to return the hostages and account for security failings surrounding the October attacks.

Earlier, thousands protested across Israel demanding early elections to oust Netanyahu.

Devastating raid

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees says about 1.7 million people have been displaced in Gaza, with about one million crowded into the Rafah area.

In the Israeli-occupied West Bank, the Israeli military demolished the two houses of two Palestinians, who they said had carried out an attack on a road between Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

An AFP journalist saw a fireball erupt and smoke billowing from a home on Sunday as Israeli armoured vehicles manoeuvred through Hebron’s roads during the raid.

The official Palestinian news agency Wafa reported clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinian fighters in a village south of Jenin and the towns of Arura and Qalqilya.

Guterres condemns Israel

Separately, UN Secretary-Gene­ral Antonio Guterres deno­unced Israel for the “heartbreaking” deaths of Palestinian civilians in Gaza and called it unacceptable to resist statehood for the Palestinian people.

“Israel’s military operations have spread mass destruction and killed civilians on a scale unprecedented during my time as secretary-general,” Guterres said at the opening of a summit of the G77+China in Kampala.

“This is heartbreaking and utterly unacceptable. The Middle East is a tinder-box, we must do all we can to prevent conflict from igniting across the region.”

Gaza tax funds

Meanwhile, Israel’s cabinet approved a plan for frozen tax funds earmarked for Gaza Strip to be held by Norway instead of transferred to the Palestinian Authority (PA), officials said on Sunday.

Published in Dawn, January 22nd, 2024

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