Israeli forces continued intense attacks on Palestinian militants in Gaza on Monday with the conflict continuing for almost a month now and with the Hamas-controlled health department claiming the death toll in the besieged territory has now risen to more than 10,000.
Determined to destroy Hamas after an October 7 attack claimed the lives of 1,400 people in Israel – and took more than 240 people hostage – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted there was no end in sight, despite international calls for a ceasefire.
Ground forces have already invaded the northern half of the Gaza Strip and the net around Gaza City is tightening. Thousands of people are still in the area, despite Israeli orders that they must leave the area.
Gaza’s Hamas-controlled health department said Monday that more than 200 people had been killed in attacks overnight; it comes a day after a death toll of more than 9,770, mostly women and children, according to the department, was reported.
The USA, an ally of Israel, sent its top diplomat, Anthony Blinken, on a quick tour to the Middle East. The visit was marked by sharp condemnation of Israel – also during his last stop in Turkey.
The heads of various agencies of the United Nations (UN) in a joint statement called for a ceasefire in the area with its 2.4 million inhabitants where Israel has now also largely suspended the delivery of water, food and fuel.
“For almost a month, the world has watched in shock and horror at the unfolding situation in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory and the rising number of lives that are being lost or torn apart,” reads the statement sent out on Sunday.
“We need an immediate humanitarian ceasefire. It is now 30 days. Enough is enough. This must end now.”
Israel’s military said on Monday it had targeted Gaza with “significant” new strikes, after earlier saying the army had already hit 12,000 targets.
“We will take the fight to Hamas, wherever they are; underground or on the ground,” said Jonathan Conricus, spokesman for the Israeli army. He also repeated calls for civilians to leave the urban war zone.
“We are going to dismantle Hamas, fortress after fortress, battalion after battalion until we achieve the biggest goal: To get rid of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, the entire Gaza Strip.”
The Hamas-controlled health department claimed on Sunday that 45 people were killed in Israeli attacks on a refugee camp in central Gaza. According to the department, survivors searched through the rubble for survivors.
“They let an entire street collapse on the heads of women and children without notice,” the department claims.
Israeli forces and Hamas fighters are engaged in house-to-house fighting in densely populated Gaza, where the war has already forced 1.5 million people to flee to other areas.
Netanyahu sticks to his statement that “there will be no ceasefire until the hostages are freed”.
Shortly before the latest wave of attacks, internet and phone lines were cut, the army says.
Israel also distributed leaflets and sent cell phone messages instructing Palestinian civilians in northern Gaza to leave south. However, a US official said on Saturday that at least 350,000 civilians were still in the hardest hit areas.
Cornicus accused Hamas of building tunnels under schools, hospitals and places of worship to hide fighters, plan attacks and store ammunition. It is an accusation that the militant group denies.
Shining in Turkey
Blinken’s regional tour took him from the West Bank to Cyprus and Iraq where he called for “humanitarian interruptions” while rejecting Arab countries’ calls for a ceasefire.
He met his Turkish counterpart, Hakan Fidan, in Ankara on Monday.
Before Blinken’s arrival, Turkey, a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization – better known as Nato – used tear gas and water cannons to disperse hundreds of protesters marching towards an air force base for US forces in Turkey’s southeast. Turkey is an ally of Palestine, but also has ties to Israel.
The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was in the country’s far northeast on Monday, apparently as an offshoot of Blinken.
Turkey has already said it is recalling its ambassador to Israel and cutting all ties with Netanyahu.
During a meeting with Blinken on the West Bank on Sunday, the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmud Abbas, strongly condemned the “genocide and destruction” at the “hand of Israel’s war machine”.
In Iran, arch enemy of Israel and the USA, pres. Ebrahim Raisi claimed on Monday that US President Joe Biden’s administration encourages Israel to kill Palestinians and commit cruel acts against them.
Border post closed
Meanwhile, the only border post through Egypt to Gaza was closed for a second day on Sunday.
Hamas suspended the transfer of those with foreign passports after the group argued that Israel had refused to allow some wounded Palestinian fighters to be moved.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs confirmed the closure, saying more than 1,100 people had been allowed to travel through the border post in the previous two days.
The war has exacerbated tensions in the West Bank, where more than 150 Palestinians have been killed in fighting with Israeli forces since the conflict began, according to the Palestinian Authority.
In the Israel-annexed east of Jerusalem, a female Israeli soldier was seriously injured in a knife attack on Monday before “border police forces neutralized the terrorist” by firing.
The Israeli army also said on Monday that it arrested the Palestinian activist Ahed Tamimi (22) in a raid in the town of Nabi Salih, in the West Bank. She is accused of “incitement to violence and terrorist activities”.
Tamimi became famous at the age of 14 when she was photographed biting an Israeli soldier to stop him from arresting her younger brother, and also because she later slapped an Israeli soldier. A large painting of her was placed on the Israeli separation wall in the West Bank.
When asked about the reason for her arrest, a security source sent an Instagram post to AFP. It was widely shared on social media and attributed to the young activist. According to the post, which was written in Arabic and Hebrew, she called for the slaughter of Israelis in very explicit terms and also referred to the then German leader Adolf Hitler.