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End of dark year with no end in sight for the Israel-Hamas war

Ahmad Gharabli Agence France-Presse Relatives and supporters light up their phones around a sign reading “Take Them Out of Hell” during a rally calling for the release of Israeli hostages held in Gaza since the October 7 attacks by Hamas in southern Israel, Tel Aviv, December 30, 2023.

Adel Zaanoun – Agence France-Presse and Jonathan Klein – Agence France-Presse in Tel-Aviv

December 31, 2023

  • Middle East

Israel continued its bombardments on Sunday on the besieged Gaza Strip and in a desperate humanitarian situation for the Palestinians after almost three months of war against Hamas at the end of a dark year for both parties.

At least 48 Palestinians were killed in overnight strikes on Gaza City, the ruling Hamas health ministry in the Palestinian territory said. Eighteen bodies have been found so far.

Another strike on the campus of Al-Aqsa University in Gaza left at least 20 dead, according to the same source.

“After the explosion, we arrived at the scene and we saw martyrs everywhere […], children are still missing,” testified Mohamed Btihan, a resident of Gaza.

The Israeli army, for its part, indicated that it had killed more than a dozen enemy fighters during multiple ground combats, airstrikes and tank fire, adding that it had located Hamas tunnels and explosives placed in a nursery school.

The war triggered by the unprecedented attacks by the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas on Israeli soil on October 7 will continue for “many months,” warned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.< /p>

“Difficult situation”

“We hoped that the year 2024 would arrive under better auspices and celebrate the New Year at home, with family. But the situation is difficult,” lamented Mahmoud Abou Shahma, 33, in a camp for displaced people in Rafah, in the south of the Gaza Strip.

“We hope for the end of the war and to be able to return home to live peacefully,” added this man from Khan Younes, the main city in the south of the Gaza Strip and the new epicenter of the fighting between the Israeli army and Hamas.

In Israel, New Year's celebrations are expected to be more sober than usual in Tel Aviv, the party capital, where the bars will be open all night, but the atmosphere will not be the same, tens of thousands of young people being mobilized on the front.

The Hamas attack on October 7 left around 1,140 people dead in Israel, most of them civilians, according to an AFP count based on official Israeli data. In response, Israel has vowed to “destroy” the Islamist movement in power in the Gaza Strip, and has relentlessly shelled the small territory where 129 people out of some 250 taken hostage on October 7 are still being held by Hamas and its allies. premises.

According to a new report announced Sunday by the Hamas Ministry of Health, 21,822 people, mostly women, adolescents and children, have been killed in the Gaza Strip since the start of the war, and 56,451 injured.

In recent weeks, the Israeli army has deployed in the north of the Gaza Strip, then towards Khan Younes (south) and recently in the camps in the center of this territory where 1.9 million inhabitants (85% of population) had to flee their homes due to the fighting.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned of the growing threat of the spread of infectious diseases and the UN has warned of famine.

“Bring them back!” »

Mr. Netanyahu reaffirmed on Sunday that Israel would continue its war “whose justice and morality are without equal”, reacting to accusations of “acts of genocide” brought by South Africa before the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Relatives of hostages held in the Gaza Strip are maintaining pressure on the Israeli government. More than a thousand people demonstrated Saturday evening in Tel Aviv in support of the hostages and their loved ones, chanting “bring them home! “.

International mediators, led by Qatar and Egypt, managed to negotiate a one-week truce at the end of November which allowed the release of more than 100 hostages and the entry into Gaza of a limited help. They are currently continuing their efforts towards a new pause in the fighting.

A delegation from Hamas, a movement classified as a terrorist organization by the EU, the United States and Israel in particular, arrived in Cairo on Friday to convey “the response of the Palestinian factions” to an Egyptian plan providing for the liberation hostages and a break in the clashes.

Tensions in the Red Sea

This response will be given “in the coming days,” said Muhammad al-Hindi, deputy secretary general of Islamic Jihad, an armed group fighting alongside Hamas, in a statement.

Questioned on Saturday evening, Benjamin Netanyahu remained evasive about the behind-the-scenes negotiations but assured that the war would continue “for several months”.

The war in Gaza has reignited tensions on the border between Lebanon and Israel, an almost daily scene since October 7 of exchanges of fire between the Israeli army and Lebanese Hezbollah, an Islamist movement close to Iran and which supports Hamas.

Israel “must first end the war in Gaza” so hostilities with Lebanon “stop,” Hezbollah number two Naïm Qassem warned on Sunday.

In the Red Sea, the American army announced on Sunday that it had sunk three boats of the Yemeni Houthi rebels allied with Iran, accused of having attacked a container ship. Ten of them were killed by the American strike.

Since the start of the war on October 7, the Houthis have shown their support for the Palestinians in Gaza by threatening traffic on this strategic sea route.

The Danish maritime transport giant Maersk announced on Sunday the suspension for 48 hours of the transit of its fleet via this sea route.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116