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Israeli PM vows no let-up in war against Hamas

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26 December 2023, ABC

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to keep up the fight against Hamas militants while Palestinians have mourned more than 100 people who Gaza health officials say were killed in Israeli airstrikes.

Netanyahu visited Israeli troops in the northern Gaza Strip just hours after one of the besieged enclave’s deadliest nights in the 11-week-old battle between Israel and Hamas.

Retaliating against Hamas for its deadly October 7 cross-border rampage, Israel has been under pressure from its closest ally the United States to shift operations in Gaza to a lower-intensity phase and reduce civilian deaths.

But Netanyahu told parliamentarians from his Likud party that the war was far from over and dismissed what he cast as media speculation his government might call a halt to the fighting.

He said Israel would not succeed in freeing its remaining hostages without applying military pressure.

“We are not stopping. The war will continue until the end, until we finish it, no less,” Netanyahu, who has defied international calls for a ceasefire, said during the Gaza visit.

At a funeral in Gaza, a line of Palestinian mourners touched the white shrouds wrapped around the bodies of at least 70 people who Palestinian health officials said were killed by an air strike that hit Maghazi in the centre of the strip.

One man, Ibrahim Youssef, said his wife and four children including a four-month-old baby, were trapped under the rubble of the house where they were staying in Maghazi.

“What did they do wrong?” he asked.

“Were there resistance fighters here?”

The strikes that began hours before midnight persisted into Monday.

Palestinian media said Israel had stepped up its air and ground shelling in central Gaza.

Health ministry spokesman Ashraf Al-Qidra said many of those killed at Maghazi were women and children.

Eight others were killed as Israeli planes and tanks struck houses and roads in nearby al-Bureij and al-Nusseirat, health officials said.

Medics said an Israeli air strike in Khan Younis in southern Gaza killed 23, bringing total Palestinian fatalities overnight to more than 100.

Pope Francis said in a Christmas message that children dying in wars, including in Gaza, are the “little Jesuses of today” and that Israeli strikes were reaping an “appalling harvest” of innocent civilians.

The Israeli army said it was reviewing the report of a Maghazi incident and was committed to minimising harm to civilians.

Israel says Hamas operates in densely populated areas and uses civilians as human shields, which Hamas denies.

Christian clergy cancelled celebrations in Bethlehem, the Israeli-occupied Palestinian West Bank city where Christian tradition says Jesus was born in a stable 2000 years ago.

Palestinian Christians held a candle-lit Christmas vigil in Bethlehem with hymns and prayers for peace in Gaza.

There was no large tree, the usual centrepiece of Bethlehem’s Christmas observances.

Nativity figurines in churches were placed among rubble and barbed wire in solidarity with the people of Gaza.

In Gaza, Hamas and smaller militant ally Islamic Jihad, both sworn to Israel’s destruction, are believed to be holding more than 100 hostages from among 240 they captured during their October 7 rampage through Israeli towns, when they killed 1200 people.

Since then, Israel has laid much of the narrow strip to waste.

Nearly 20,700 Gazans have been killed, including 250 in the last 24 hours, according to authorities in Hamas-ruled Gaza.

The vast majority of Gaza’s 2.3 million population have been driven from their homes and the United Nations says humanitarian conditions are catastrophic.

The Israeli military said on Monday two of its soldiers had died in the last day, bringing to 158 the number killed since ground operations began on October 20.

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Article source: Canberra Times / AAP | December 26 2023

2024-05-08 07:04:10.000000