December 26, 2023 08:15
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to expand his country's war against Hamas in Gaza, as health authorities in the enclave reported dozens of victims in an Israeli strike on a refugee camp.
"We are expanding the fight in the coming days, and this will be a long battle and it isn't close to finished," Netanyahu told members of his Likud party Monday.
Israeli strikes pounded central Gaza late Sunday and into Monday. Heath authorities in the Hamas-run territory said at least 70 people were killed in an Israeli airstrike that hit that Maghazi refugee camp.
The Israeli military said it was reviewing the reported strike in Maghazi, while reiterating its commitment to minimizing harm to civilians in its war to eliminate the Hamas militant group.
News reports say Egypt has proposed a plan to end the current conflict with a ceasefire, a phased hostage release and the formation of the Palestinian government of experts to administer the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. There has been no official response to the proposal from Israel or Hamas.
Meanwhile, Israel has reported several more deaths among its soldiers in the conflict, pushing the number killed since Friday to 17 and the total number of Israeli soldier deaths since launching its ground operation in Gaza to 156.
The Israeli offensive, which has included thousands of airstrikes in addition to ground operations, has left vast parts of Gaza in ruins and killed 20,400 Palestinians, according to the Gaza health ministry. The fighting has also displaced most of Gaza's 2.3 million people, with many trying to find safety in overcrowded, UN-run shelters in southern Gaza.
At a solemn Christmas Eve Mass at the Vatican's St. Peter's Basilica, Pope Francis lamented that Jesus' message of peace is being drowned out by the "futile logic of war" in the land where he was born.
"Tonight, our hearts are in Bethlehem, where the Prince of Peace is once more rejected by the futile logic of war, by the clash of arms that even today prevents him from finding room in the world," Pope Francis said as the death toll continues to climb in Gaza.
The head of the World Health Organization Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Sunday the health system in Gaza was being destroyed and reiterated his call for a cease-fire. "The decimation of the Gaza health system is a tragedy," he posted on X, formerly Twitter. "We persist in calling for #CeasefireNow."
As of Dec. 20, WHO had registered 246 attacks on health care in Gaza, including hospitals and ambulances, resulting in 582 deaths and 748 injuries.
Hamas militants poured into the Gaza border on Oct. 7 and attacked southern Israeli communities, killing about 1,200 people, according to Israel. The group, designated a terrorist group by the U.S. and others, also seized around 240 hostages, of whom 129 remain in Gaza.
In response, Israel vowed to crush Hamas and launched an air, land and sea offensive on Gaza. Israel said Hamas is to blame for the high civilian death toll, citing its use of crowded residential areas and a system of tunnels throughout the enclave.
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