Israel bombs Gaza as rift with US grows

Israel bombed Gaza on Thursday in its war against Hamas fighters as a top White House adviser travelled to Jerusalem with a rift growing over civilian casualties.

Israel bombs Gaza as rift with US grows
Palestinians fleeing north Gaza move southward as ambulances head towards north Gaza during a temporary truce between Israel and Hamas, near Gaza City, November 27, 2023.

The war, now in its third month, began after the Palestinian group’s launched a resistance campaign in Israel on October 7.

In response, Israel vowed to destroy Hamas. It began a relentless bombardment and ground invasion that has left swathes of Gaza in ruins. According to the Hamas-run health ministry’s latest toll, 18,608 people, mostly women and children, have been killed. Israeli air strikes across Gaza overnight killed at least 67 more, the health ministry said.

In the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where violence since October 7 has surged to levels unseen in nearly two decades, the Palestinian health ministry said “a young man died from his wounds” as a result of ongoing Israeli “aggression” in Jenin.

US President Joe Biden, whose government has provided Israel with billions of dollars in military aid, delivered his sharpest rebuke of the war on Wednesday. He said Israel’s “indiscriminate bombing” of Gaza was eroding international support.

But Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to carry on “until victory, nothing less than that,” and Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said the war would continue “with or without international support.”

On Thursday, Biden’s National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan was due in Jerusalem for talks with Netanyahu and his war cabinet, a sign of the US pressure.

Sullivan told a Wall Street Journal event ahead of his trip that he would discuss a timetable to end the war and urge Israeli leaders “to move to a different phase from the kind of high-intensity operations that we see today.”

Netanyahu has said there is also “disagreement” with Washington over how Gaza would be governed after the war.

Qatar-based Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh said on Wednesday that “any arrangement in Gaza or in the Palestinian cause without Hamas or the resistance factions is a delusion.”

A poll by the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research showed Haniyeh had the support of 78% of people in the Palestinian territories, compared with 58% before the war.

‘Darkest chapter’

CNN reported, citing US intelligence, that nearly half of the air-to-ground munitions used by Israel in Gaza since October 7 have been unguided, which can pose a greater threat to civilians.

International pressure is mounting on Israel to better protect non-combatants. This week, the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly supported a non-binding resolution for a ceasefire.

While Washington voted against, the resolution was supported by allies Australia, Canada and New Zealand. In a rare joint statement, the three countries said they were “alarmed at the diminishing safe space for civilians in Gaza.”

The UN estimates 1.9 million out of Gaza’s 2.4 million people have been displaced. The head of the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, Philippe Lazzarini, said on Wednesday that Gazans were “facing the darkest chapter of their history.”

He said they are “now crammed into less than one-third” of the territory, and hinted there could be an exodus to Egypt, “especially when the border is so close.”

Cold wintery rain has lashed the makeshift tents where the homeless struggle to survive without sufficient food, drinking water, medicines or fuel for cooking.

“Where do we migrate to? Our dignity is gone. Where do women relieve themselves? There are no bathrooms,” said Bilal al-Qassas, 41, who fled to the southern city of Rafah which has become a vast camp.

Despite the needs, aid distribution has largely stopped in most of Gaza, except on a limited basis in the Rafah area, the UN says.

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