Netanyahu vows to keep fighting in Gaza despite mounting death toll

The Israeli military on Sunday said eight more soldiers had been killed in the Palestinian territory

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs a cabinet meeting at the Kirya military base, which houses the Israeli Ministry of Defence, in Tel Aviv. AFP
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to continue the war in Gaza until “all of Israel's goals were met” despite the death of more Israeli soldiers in combat.

Mr Netanyahu spoke to US President Joe Biden to discuss the “objectives and phasing” of Israel's military operations, the need to protect civilian lives and secure the release of hostages, the White House said.

During the phone call, Mr Netanyahu “made clear that Israel will pursue the war until all of its objectives are fully met”, his office said.

His comments came as the Israeli military said eight soldiers had been killed in Gaza on Sunday, bringing the military's combat losses to 154.

All of the latest deaths were in central and southern Gaza.

Fierce clashes also took place between Hamas and Israeli forces in the Jabalia area in northern Gaza, Palestinian media reported.

Israeli forces have been trying to enter the town for more than a month amid non-stop aerial and artillery bombardment.

On Saturday, Jabalia residents reported persistent bombing by Israeli planes and shelling from Israeli tanks, which they said had moved further into the town.

Israel's military offensive has killed more than 20,000 people in Gaza so far, the Health Ministry in Gaza said.

It launched its offensive on October 7 in retaliation to the attacks by Hamas militants earlier that day that killed about 1,200 people in southern Israel. The militants also took about 240 people back to Gaza as hostages, with about half still in captivity.

The conflict has displaced about 1.9 million of the enclave's 2.3 million people.

This weekend, Israel instructed the people of Al Burage camp, in central Gaza, to move 5km to the city of Deir Al Balah.

However, many were forced to return to the camp after overcrowding in the UN-run schools in the city.

“I didn't find any place to go to; the UNRWA schools are full of people in Deir Al Balah, and situations inside the schools are not perfect, people don't find food there,” Ahmed Abu Marzouq, 50, told The National

“I want to die inside my home in dignity. I am sure after a while they will ask the people inside Deir Al Balah to go to Rafah and then to Sinna, and I don't want to go to Sinna, so let me die in my home in my land,” he said.

Others said that moving was too dangerous due to Israeli shelling.

“There are a large number of residents inside the school, but I can't leave the area because the shelling is everywhere, and there is no safe place in the Gaza Strip,” said Hawa Hamdan, from a UN-run school in Al Burag.

“We are afraid of that Israeli shelling, and we don't sleep at night; the shrapnel's reach our places, but we are tired of keeping fleeing all the time,” she said.

More than 20 families, with about 30 children, are sheltering in the school's corridors, she said.

Palestinians search for survivors after Israeli air strikes in central Gaza

Palestinians search for survivors after Israeli air strikes in central Gaza

The UN again called for a “humanitarian ceasefire” as the only way to ensure enough aid reaches people in Gaza.

“For aid to reach people in need, hostages to be released, more displacement to be avoided and above all the devastating loss of lives to stop a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza is the only way forward,” said the UN high commissioner for refugees, Filippo Grandi, in a post on X.

“War defies logic and humanity and prepares a future of more hatred, less peace,” he said.

Seventy lorries carrying aid were received by the Palestinian Red Crescent inside Gaza on Saturday, the organisation said on Sunday.

The shipment from the Rafah border included food, water and medical supplies, however, the Red Crescent did not report any fuel deliveries.

Another 100 lorries entered Israeli checkpoints and are awaiting approval for entry into Gaza, Cairo 24 news outlet reported.

Plane-loads of aid continued to land in the Egyptian city of Al Arish over the weekend with the latest coming from Iraq on Saturday.

Clashes also continued between Lebanon’s Hezbollah group and Israeli forces on the border between the two countries on Sunday.

Hezbollah said it targeted the Israeli artillery positions in Dishon in northern Israel with missiles and claimed a “direct hit”.

The Israel military said several shells were fired at its positions in Shebaa Farms, an area claimed by Lebanon which was captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East War.

Israel has come under greater pressure from its allies, including the US, as the war continues and threatens to spill over to Lebanon and the Red Sea.

Washington has maintained its support for Israel while expressing concern over the growing casualty toll and humanitarian crisis in Gaza. US officials have said they expect Israel to shift soon to a lower-intensity phase, with operations targeting the Hamas leadership and its infrastructure.

Mr Biden told reporters he “did not ask for a ceasefire”, while Mr Netanyahu's office said he thanked the US President for his country's stance at the UN Security Council.

The Israeli Prime Minister later dismissed reports that the US had convinced Israel not to expand its military activity.

“Israel is a sovereign nation,” Mr Netanyahu said. “Our military decisions are based upon our own calculations.”

Updated: December 25, 2023, 3:53 AM