Palestinian death toll soars past 25,000 in Gaza
The Palestinian death toll in Gaza from over three months of war between Israel and the territory's Hamas rulers has soared past 25,000, the Gaza Health Ministry said on Sunday.
At least 178 bodies were brought to Gaza's hospitals in 24 hours along with nearly 300 wounded people, according to Health Ministry spokesperson Ashraf al-Qidra.
Women and children are the main victims in the Israel-Hamas war, according to the United Nations.
Since 7 October, some 85% of Gaza’s population have fled their homes, with hundreds of thousands packing into UN-run shelters and tent camps in the southern part of the tiny coastal enclave. UN officials say a quarter of the population of 2.3 million is starving as only a trickle of humanitarian aid enters because of the fighting and Israeli restrictions.
Gaza’s Health Ministry says a total of 25,105 Palestinians have been killed in the territory since 7 October and another 62,681 have been wounded. Al-Qidra said many casualties remain buried under the rubble from Israeli strikes or in areas where medics cannot reach them.
The ministry does not differentiate between civilians and combatants in its death toll but says around two-thirds of those killed were women and minors.
The Israeli military says it has killed around 9,000 militants, without providing evidence, and blames the high civilian death toll on Hamas because it fights in dense, residential neighbourhoods.
The military says 195 of its soldiers have been killed since the start of the Gaza offensive.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to keep up the offensive until Hamas is dismantled and all the hostages are returned.
Nearly half of the captives were released during a weeklong cease-fire in November in exchange for the release of scores of Palestinians imprisoned by Israel. Israel says some 130 remain in captivity, but only around 100 are believed to still be alive.
The conflict has divided ordinary Israelis and their leaders while the offensive threatens to ignite a wider war involving Iran-backed groups in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen that support the Palestinians. In Lebanon, Hezbollah forces have engaged in near-daily clashes with Israeli troops along the border.
An Israeli airstrike on Sunday hit a car near a Lebanese army checkpoint in the southern town of Kafra, killing at least one person and injuring several others, Lebanese state media reported. Their identities were not immediately clear. Israel's military said its aircraft and tanks struck a number of Hezbollah targets in southern Lebanon.
The United States wades in once more
The United States, which has provided diplomatic and military support for Israel's offensive, has had limited success in persuading Israel to put civilians at less risk and to facilitate the delivery of more humanitarian aid.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected US and international calls for postwar plans that would include a path to Palestinian statehood. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the refusal to accept a two-state solution "totally unacceptable.”
“The Middle East is a tinderbox. We must do all we can to prevent conflict igniting across the region," Guterres added on Sunday. "And that starts with an immediate humanitarian cease-fire to relieve the suffering in Gaza.”