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Deir al-Balah, Gaza Strip: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pushed back against growing international calls for a ceasefire, saying Israel’s battle to crush Gaza’s ruling Hamas militants will continue with “full force”.
A ceasefire would be possible only if all 239 hostages held by militants in Gaza are released, Netanyahu said in a televised address.
Palestinians flee to the southern Gaza Strip on Salah al-Din Street in Bureij.Credit: AP
The Israeli leader also insisted that after the war – now entering its sixth week – Gaza would be demilitarised and Israel would retain security control there. Asked what he meant by security control, Netanyahu said Israeli forces must be able to enter Gaza freely to hunt down militants.
He also rejected the idea that the Palestinian Authority, which currently administers autonomous areas in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, would at some stage control Gaza. Both positions run counter to post-war scenarios floated by Israel’s closest ally, the United States.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said the Biden administration opposes an Israeli reoccupation of Gaza and envisions a unified Palestinian government in both Gaza and the West Bank at some stage as a step toward Palestinian statehood.
For now, Netanyahu said: “The war against [Hamas] is advancing with full force, and it has one goal, to win. There is no alternative to victory.”
Palestinians walk among what is left of residential buildings.Credit: Bloomberg
Pressure was growing on Israel after frantic doctors at Gaza’s largest hospital said the last generator had run out of fuel, causing the death of a premature baby, another child in an incubator and four other patients. Thousands of war-wounded, medical staff and displaced civilians were caught in the fighting.
Fighting near Al Shifa and other hospitals in northern Gaza has intensified and supplies have run out. The Israeli military has alleged, without providing evidence, that Hamas has established command posts in and underneath hospitals and are using civilians as human shields. Medical staff at Al Shifa have denied such claims and accused Israel of harming civilians with indiscriminate attacks.
Al Shifa hospital director Mohammed Abu Selmia said the facility lost power this weekend.
“Medical devices stopped. Patients, especially those in intensive care, started to die,” he said by phone, with gunfire and explosions in the background. He said Israeli troops were “shooting at anyone outside or inside the hospital” and prevented movement between buildings.
Israel’s military confirmed clashes outside the hospital, but Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari denied Al Shifa was under siege. He said troops will assist on Sunday in moving babies treated there and said “we are speaking directly and regularly” with hospital staff.
Six patients died at Al Shifa after the generator shut down, including the two children, spokesmen with the Hamas-run Health Ministry said.
“Shelling and explosions never stopped,” said Islam Mattar, one of thousands sheltering at Al Shifa. “Children here are terrified from the constant sound of explosions.”
The Health Ministry told Al Jazeera there were still 1500 patients at Al Shifa, along with 1500 medical personnel and between 15,000 and 20,000 people seeking shelter.
The “unbearably desperate situation” at Al Shifa must stop now, International Committee of the Red Cross director general Robert Mardini said on social media. UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths posted that “there can be no justification for acts of war in healthcare facilities”.
Elsewhere, the Palestinian Red Crescent said Israeli tanks were 20 metres from Al Quds hospital in Gaza City, causing “a state of extreme panic and fear” among the 14,000 displaced people sheltering there.
Israel’s military released footage which it said showed tanks operating in Gaza. The images showed shattered buildings, some on fire, and destroyed streets empty of anyone but troops.
A 57-nation gathering of Muslim and Arab leaders in Saudi Arabia called in their communique for an end to the war in Gaza and the immediate delivery of humanitarian aid. They also called on the International Court of Justice, a UN organ, to open an investigation into Israel’s attacks, saying the war “cannot be called self-defence and cannot be justified under any means.”
Israeli soldiers and journalists take cover as a siren warns of incoming rockets fired from the Gaza Strip.Credit: AP
Netanyahu has said the responsibility for any harm to civilians lies with Hamas, which denied it was preventing people in Gaza City from fleeing.
Following Hamas’ deadly October 7 attack on Israel, in which at least 1200 people were killed, Israel’s allies have defended the country’s right to protect itself. Nearly 240 people abducted by Hamas from Israel remain captive. But now into the second month of war, there are growing differences over how Israel should conduct its fight.
The US has pushed for temporary pauses that would allow for wider distribution of badly needed aid to civilians in the besieged territory where conditions are increasingly dire.
However, Israel has only agreed to brief daily periods during which civilians can flee the area of ground combat in northern Gaza and head south on foot along the territory’s main north-south artery.
People mourn as they collect the bodies of Palestinians killed in Israeli raids in Khan Yunis, in Gaza’s south.Credit: Getty
Palestinian civilians and rights advocates have pushed back against Israel’s portrayal of the southern evacuation zones as “relatively safe”.
They note that Israeli bombardment has continued across Gaza, including airstrikes in the south that Israel says target Hamas leaders, but that have also killed women and children.
More than 11,070 Palestinians, two-thirds of them women and minors, have been killed since the war began, according to the Health Ministry in Gaza, which does not differentiate between civilian and militant deaths. About 2700 people have been reported missing and are thought to be possibly trapped or dead under the rubble.
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