GAZA: The Palestinian resistance group Hamas continued to battle invading Israeli forces in Gaza City on Wednesday as international pressure for a ceasefire and halt to barbaric attacks by Tel Aviv increased.
According to the Palestinian health ministry in Gaza, Israel’s relentless bombardment has killed more than 10,300 people, almost half of them children.
Calls for a halt in the fighting have gone unheard, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisting there would be no pause until the more than 240 hostages seized by Hamas are freed.
United Nations rights chief Volker Turk said the past month was one marked by “carnage, of incessant suffering, bloodshed, destruction, outrage and despair”.
In densely packed Gaza — where more than 1.5 million people have fled their homes in a desperate search for safety — the suffering is immense.
Entire city blocks have been levelled and bodies in white shrouds are piling up outside hospitals, where surgeons operate on bloodied floors by the light of phones.
The World Health Organization said an average of 160 children are killed every day in Gaza by Israel.
“The level of death and suffering is hard to fathom,” WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier said.
Hamas’s media office said on Telegram that several cemeteries in Gaza had “no more space for burials”, while the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said most of the territory’s sewage pumping stations were shut.
Israel accuses Hamas of building military tunnels underneath hospitals, schools and mosques — charges the group denies.
OCHA says Israel has ordered all 13 hospitals still operational in northern Gaza to evacuate patients.
Netanyahu has said no fuel will be delivered to besieged Gaza, but may allow possible “tactical pauses” to free hostages and deliver aid.
But Israel appeared to row back on Netanyahu’s comments his country would assume “overall security” in Gaza after the war ends, after Washington said it opposed a long-term occupation of Gaza.
“Our viewpoint is that Palestinians must be at the forefront of these decisions and Gaza is Palestinian land and it will remain Palestinian land,” US State Department spokesman Vedant Patel said.
“Generally speaking, we do not support the reoccupation of Gaza and neither does Israel.”
Ron Dermer, Israel’s Minister of Strategic Affairs and part of Netanyahu’s war cabinet, told the BBC that Israeli forces would not reoccupy Gaza, but carry out security operations against anything they saw as a threat.
Israel withdrew its troops from the territory, which it captured in the 1967 Six-Day War, in 2005.
In the occupied West Bank on Sunday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken suggested the Palestinian
Authority under president Mahmud Abbas should retake control. The PA exercises limited autonomy in only parts of the West Bank, and Abbas said it could only potentially return to power in Gaza if a “comprehensive political solution” is found for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Senior Hamas official Ghazi Hamad dismissed the suggestion, saying the fighters were “part of the national Palestinian fabric”, he told Al-Jazeera Arabic.
“After failing in Iraq and Afghanistan… now the Americans are dreaming that they can rearrange Gaza in the way that they see fit”, he said.
Blinken, following a Middle East tour of crisis diplomacy, is in Japan for a meeting of G7 foreign ministers to seek a common line on Gaza.
The ministers are expected to call in a joint statement for “humanitarian pauses” in Gaza, while stopping short of urging a ceasefire — in line with US policy on the war.
“All over Gaza, helpless people are losing their family members, homes, and their own lives, while world leaders fail to take meaningful action,” medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said.
In its statement, MSF detailed how a staff member was killed on Monday along with his family in Gaza’s Shati refugee camp when the area was bombed.
Israel has hammered Gaza with more than 12,000 air and artillery strikes and sent in ground forces that have effectively cut it in half.
It has air-dropped leaflets and sent texts ordering civilians in northern Gaza to flee south, but a US official said Saturday at least 350,000 civilians remained in the worst-hit areas.
Clutching one of her toddlers, Amira al-Sakani said she fled Gaza City after coming across the air-dropped Israeli flyers.
On the way, Sakani said she saw “bodies of martyrs, some in pieces” as people fled the worst of the fighting.
“Our life is tragic; we don’t want war… we want peace”, she added.
The International Committee of the Red Cross, which said one of its humanitarian convoys in Gaza was hit by gunfire on Tuesday, demanded an end to the suffering of civilians.
“Children have been ripped from their families and held hostage. In Gaza, ICRC surgeons treat toddlers whose skin is charred from widespread burns,” the organisation’s president Mirjana Spoljaric said.