Israeli forces pushed on with intense strikes targeting Palestinian fighters in Gaza on Monday as the war neared one month and the Hamas-run health ministry’s death toll crossed 10,000 inside the besieged territory.
Determined to destroy Hamas whose October 7 attack left 1,400 dead in Israel and saw over 240 hostages taken, prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed no letup despite mounting international calls for a ceasefire.
Ground forces with tanks have flooded the northern half of the Gaza Strip and tightened an encirclement of Gaza City, effectively splitting the territory in two, even as hundreds of thousands of civilians remained in the north despite Israeli evacuation orders.
The health ministry in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip said on Monday that the death toll from Israeli bombardment of the Palestinian territory reached to 10,022, mostly women and children.
‘These are massacres! They destroyed three houses over the heads of their inhabitants — women and children,’ one resident, Mahmoud Mechmech, told AFP in Deir al-Balah in central Gaza.
Israel’s ally the United States has sent its top diplomat Antony Blinken on a whirlwind Middle East tour that has been marked by strong condemnation of Israel, including on his latest stop Turkey.
The heads of major United Nations agencies issued a joint statement calling for a ceasefire inside the territory of 2.4 million people where an Israeli siege has cut off most water, food and fuel supplies.
‘For almost a month, the world has been watching the unfolding situation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory in shock and horror at the spiralling numbers of lives lost and torn apart,’ said the statement.
‘We need an immediate humanitarian ceasefire. It’s been 30 days. Enough is enough. This must stop now.’
The Israeli army said on Monday it had pounded Gaza with ‘significant’ new strikes on 450 targets, having earlier said it had already hit over 12,000.
It also reported seizing a Hamas command post in central Gaza, where tanks were driving between the ruins of buildings.
‘We will take the fight to Hamas wherever they are — underground, above ground,’ Israeli army spokesman Jonathan Conricus said, repeating calls for civilians to leave the urban war zone.
‘We will be able to dismantle Hamas, stronghold after stronghold, battalion after battalion, until we achieve the ultimate goal, which is to rid the Gaza Strip — the entire Gaza Strip — of Hamas.’
Israeli troops and Hamas fighters have engaged in fierce house-to-house combat in densely populated Gaza, where the war has sent 1.5 million people fleeing to other parts of the territory.
Netanyahu has remained firm on his position, vowing on Sunday that ‘there won’t be a ceasefire until the hostages are returned’.
Shortly before the latest barrage of strikes, internet and telephone lines were cut, the army said.
Israel has distributed leaflets and sent text messages ordering Palestinian civilians in northern Gaza to head south, but a US official said Saturday at least 350,000 civilians remained in the worst-hit areas.
Conricus accused Hamas of building tunnels underneath hospitals, schools and places of worship in Gaza to hide fighters, plan attacks and store ammunition — charges the militant group has denied.