Netanyahu vows to 'press on' with mission to eliminate Hamas in Gaza

Netanyahu vows to ‘press on’ with mission to eliminate Hamas terror group in Gaza as Israel is accused of bombing areas it has called safe zone for Palestinians – with ’61 percent of casualties civilians’

  • Gaza death toll has surpassed 17,700, according to Hamas-run health ministry

Israel will continue its ‘just war to eliminate Hamas’ in the Gaza Strip, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed as he thanked the United States for blocking a United Nations ceasefire bid.

The US, a key ally of Israel, was the only member to veto the UN Security Council resolution demanding an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, while the UK abstained in the vote, despite widespread international support.

The humanitarian situation is becoming increasingly dire as Israel continues to push ahead in its relentless bombing campaign, with warplanes striking southern areas that the IDF previously described as safe zones for evacuating Palestinians.

With the war now in its third month, the Palestinian death toll in Gaza has surpassed 17,700, with the majority of victims being women and children, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry. 

It comes as new analysis has found that the civilian proportion of total deaths rose to 61 percent in the first three weeks of Israel’s ‘Swords of Iron’ operation. Israeli academic Yagil Levy said the figure was higher than in previous assaults on Gaza, describing it as ‘unprecedented killing’.

Relatives of the Palestinians killed in Israeli attacks mourn as they receive the dead bodies from the morgue of An-Najjar Hospital in Rafah, southern Gaza

A ball of fire rises above a building during an Israeli strike, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip

Palestinians look at houses destroyed in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip in Rafah on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2023. (AP Photo/Fatima Shbair)

Makeshift tent camps housing Palestinians displaced by intense Israeli bombardment, with many seeking refuge in open areas around the Raed al-Attar Mosque in Rafah, southern Gaza

An Isareli army rescue helicopter used to transport soldiers wounded in the Gaza operations, lands at Nahal Oz, Israel

‘The broad conclusion is that extensive killing of civilians not only contributes nothing to Israel’s security, but that it also contains the foundations for further undermining it,’ the sociology professor said of his findings, published by Haaertz. 

‘The Gazans who will emerge from the ruins of their homes and the loss of their families will seek revenge that no security arrangements will be able to withstand.’ 

Israeli warplanes struck parts of the Gaza Strip in relentless bombardment on Saturday, hitting some of the dwindling bits of land that Israel had described as safe zones when telling Palestinians in the south to evacuate.

Residents ‘are being told to move like human pinballs – ricocheting between ever-smaller slivers of the south, without any of the basics for survival,’ UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the council before the UNSC vote.

Gaza’s borders with Israel and Egypt are effectively sealed, leaving 2.3 million Palestinians with no option other than to seek refuge within the territory 25 miles (40 kilometers) long by about 7 miles (11 kilometers) wide.

At least 17,700 Palestinians have been killed and 48,780 wounded in Israeli attacks in Gaza since October 7, Gaza’s Health Ministry said on Saturday.

Ashraf Al-Qidra, spokesman for the Hamas-run ministry, said that in recent hours two paramedics were wounded when Israeli forces targeted an ambulance while it was working to evacuate wounded patients from Gaza’s European Hospital.

He denounced what he called Israel’s war against hospitals, ambulances and medical teams.

Two hospitals in central and southern Gaza received the bodies of 133 people from Israeli bombings over the past 24 hours, the Health Ministry said midday Saturday.

Israel holds the Hamas militants responsible for civilian casualties, accusing them of using civilians as human shields, and says it has made considerable efforts with evacuation orders to get civilians out of harm’s way. I

Rubble surrounds what appears to be a children’s playground, destroyed in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip in Rafah on December 9

Palestinians wounded in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip are brought to the hospital in Deir al Balah on Friday, Dec. 8, 2023

Palestinians assess the destruction to houses following an Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip in Rafah on Saturday, December 9, 2023

Palestinians look at houses destroyed in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip in Rafah on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2023

Israel says Hamas operates from within hospitals and has released footage supporting the claim, and it has also targeted in the past ambulances it says were used by Hamas. Hamas has denied this.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned of a ‘humanitarian catastrophe’ in Gaza and for the first time invoked Article 99 of the U.N. Charter, which enables a U.N. chief to highlight threats he sees to international peace and security. 

Criticism of the US is mounting from around the world following its rejection of the resolution, after US deputy ambassador Robert Wood called the resolution ‘imbalanced’.

Israeli soldiers patrol as the smoke rises from the Gaza Strip after Israeli strikes on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2023. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

He slammed the council after for its failure to condemn Hamas October 7 attack on Israel in which the militants killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, or to acknowledge Israel’s right to defend itself. 

He declared that halting military action would allow Hamas to continue to rule Gaza and ‘only plant the seeds for the next war.’

‘I very much appreciate the correct stance the US took at the United Nations Security Council… Therefore, Israel will continue our just war to eliminate Hamas and achieve the rest of the war’s goals,’ Netanyahu said of the decision.

A staunch ally of Israel, the US also approved the emergency sale of tank ammunition worth more than $100 million to Israel.

A picture taken in southern Israel near the border with the Gaza Strip on December 7, 2023

‘What is the message we are sending Palestinians if we cannot unite behind a call to halt the relentless bombardment of Gaza?’ United Arab Emirates deputy ambassador Mohamed Abushaha asked after the vote. 

‘Indeed, what is the message we are sending civilians across the world who may find themselves in similar situations?’

Gazans have reported ongoing airstrikes and shelling, including in the southern city of Rafah near the Egyptian border – one area the Israeli army had told civilians to go. In a colorful classroom there, knee-high children’s tables were strewn with rubble.

Palestinians mourn relatives killed in the Israeli bombardment on Rafah, Gaza Strip

‘We now live in the Gaza Strip and are governed by the American law of the jungle. America has killed human rights,’ said Rafah resident Abu Yasser al-Khatib.

In northern Gaza, Israel has been trying to secure the military´s hold, despite heavy resistance from Hamas. 

Benjamin Netanyahu thanked the US for blocking a United Nations ceasefire bid

The military said it found weapons inside a school in Shujaiyah, a densely populated neighborhood of Gaza City, and in a separate incident, militants shot at troops from a U.N.-run school in the northern town of Beit Hanoun.

As bombs continued to rain down on Gaza, IDF chief Herzi Halevi declared his forces must ‘press harder’ to dismantle Hamas’s terror network.

‘Every day, we’re seeing more and more terrorists killed, more and more terrorists wounded, and in recent days we’re seeing terrorists surrendering – this is a sign their network’s falling apart, a sign we need to press harder,’ Halevi said at a ceremony at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City. 

Shocking images released this week showed Palestinian men stripped to their underwear, bound and lined up as IDF troops stood guard in areas of northern Gaza. 

A day after Israel confirmed it was rounding up Palestinian men for interrogation, some of those who had been freed told reporters they had been badly treated while in captivity.

Osama Oula, one of a group of 10 boys and men dropped off at a hospital in the central town of Deir al-Balah after being freed, said Israeli forces bound him and others with zip ties, beat them for several days and gave them little water to drink. Some were not allowed out to use the toilet.

Once freed, barefoot and in their underwear, they were told to walk south, he said.

Dozens of captives are reported to have been paraded through Palestine Square in Gaza City, with shoes and sandals strewn across the street in one image

Another man, Ahmad Nimr Salman, showed his marked and swollen hands from the zip ties. He said his 17-year-old son, Amjad, was still held. 

‘They used to ask us, ‘Are you with Hamas?’ We say ‘no,’ then they would slap us or kick us,’ he said. The Israeli military had no immediate comment when asked about the alleged abuse. 

Israel says its troops stripped the detained men to check they were not concealing weapons or suicide bombs.

The IDF says 97 Israeli soldiers have died in the ground offensive since Hamas terrorists’ deadly October 7 raid in Israel that killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians. 

About 240 hostages were taken, with dozens released during a recent temporary truce.

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