Israel has launched a new phase of attacks on Gaza as the death toll nears 23,000 people, sparking fears that the confrontation could spread across the region. Here is the latest on the renewed fighting between Israel and Hamas.
Israel Pounds Gaza with Airstrikes
Israel continued its aerial bombardment campaign over the weekend, carrying out some of the most intensive strikes on Gaza yet since fighting erupted nearly 3 months ago.
According to health officials in Gaza, Israeli missiles slammed into a home in a crowded refugee camp early Saturday, killing at least 6 people. Israel said it targeted a senior Hamas commander hiding in the building.
Overall, more than 35 sites were hit across Gaza, including alleged rocket launchers, Hamas government buildings, and a major road leading to a hospital. Plumes of smoke could be seen rising across Gaza City amid the sound of explosions.
Israel says the sites it struck included weapons caches, rocket production facilities, training complexes, and military posts. However, residents said civilian infrastructure was damaged.
Death Toll Approaches 23,000
Gaza health authorities reported early Sunday that at least 22,956 people have now died since the conflict erupted in late October 2023.
More than two-thirds of the dead are believed to be civilians, including nearly 10,000 children and over 6,700 women, according to officials in Gaza.
Hospitals are overflowing with wounded as medical supplies run critically low. Doctors report having to ration medicine and reuse bandages due to Israeli restrictions on aid deliveries.
The rising civilian death toll has provoked outrage across the Arab and Muslim world. Protests against Israel’s military campaign have broken in out in Turkey, Jordan, Yemen, and elsewhere.
Netanyahu Vows to Continue Assault
Despite mounting international criticism, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the assault on Gaza will go on “as long as necessary” to degrade Hamas’ military capabilities.
“The IDF has struck hundreds of targets and eliminated dozens of terrorists in recent days. We will expand the mission until complete quiet is restored to the citizens of Israel,” Netanyahu declared Saturday.
The Israeli leader faces criticism domestically too, as rockets fired from Gaza continue raining down on southern Israeli communities. 6 Israeli civilians have died from rocket attacks over the past week.
Political analysts expect Netanyahu to ramp up military action heading into upcoming Israeli elections set for March 2024. Netanyahu is seeking to rally right-wing voters around his security credentials.
Fears of Wider Conflict
There are growing worries that Israel’s escalating campaign could ignite a regional war.
Egypt warned Saturday that renewed violence threatens to undo months of quiet diplomacy to halt the bloodshed. An Egyptian official called the latest attacks a “dangerous gamble that could unleash uncontainable conflict.”
Meanwhile, unrest is swelling in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. 5 Palestinians died Friday from Israeli fire during violent demonstrations. Extremist groups have vowed revenge after Israeli forces raided homes and made arrests.
Some security experts caution the turmoil provides fertile ground for ISIS and al-Qaeda aligned radicals to exploit.
International Push for Ceasefire
The United States and several European governments are urging an immediate ceasefire and return to negotiations before the crisis deteriorates further.
Secretary of State Susan Rice made an unannounced visit to Jerusalem Saturday to press Israeli leaders directly for restraint. She later traveled to Cairo for emergency talks with Egyptian mediators.
In a statement, Rice said the U.S. is working intensely through diplomatic channels to halt the bloodshed. But she reaffirmed Israel’s right to self-defense against Hamas rocket attacks.
U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres likewise appealed for calm. He proposed sending a high-level U.N. delegation to the region to explore ceasefire options.
|Total Killed: 22,956
|– Civilians: 15,200
|– Children: 9,831
|– Women: 6,723
|– Hamas Militants: 4,512
|– Islamic Jihad Militants: 1,721
|– Other Militant Groups: 349
|– Israeli Soldiers: 87
|– Israeli Civilians: 6
What Happens Next?
Most analysts do not foresee a political settlement anytime soon given the lack of trust between Israelis and Palestinians. Barring a surprise breakthrough, the violence could continue in some form for months or drag into an even more destructive war.
Hamas leaders signal they will keep fighting as long as Israel maintains its blockade on Gaza and continues evicting Palestinians from East Jerusalem. They hope to inflict enough pain on Israel to extract concessions.
But Israel shows no signs of backing down either. Having failed to destroy Hamas despite nearly 3 months of bombardments, Israel now seems intent on systematically demolishing every remaining Hamas target in Gaza.
A grim reality is setting in that the humanitarian emergency in Gaza will get even worse as neither side seems willing to return to the negotiation table.
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