France Media Agency At the European hospital in Khan Younès, parents cry near the remains of their children and relatives try to console each other.
Adel Zaanoun – Agence France-Presse and Ilan Ben Zion – Associated Press respectively in Gaza and Jerusalem
- Middle East
The Israeli Prime Minister vowed on Saturday to continue until “complete victory” his war against Hamas, which will enter its fourth month on Sunday, transforming Gaza into a “place of death” according to the UN and fueling fears of a contagion in neighboring Lebanon.
During the day, the Israeli air force carried out new deadly strikes from the north to the south of the Gaza Strip, where Hamas took power in 2007, while tension is rise to the Israeli-Lebanese border.
“The war must not end until we have achieved” all of its objectives, which are “to eliminate Hamas, recover the hostages and ensure that Gaza is no longer a threat to Israel,” said Benjamin Netanyahu, in a statement concluding three months of conflict.
The Israeli army soon after announced that it had “completed the dismantling of the Hamas military structure in the northern Gaza Strip.” In this area, “there are still terrorists acting sporadically and without command,” said General Daniel Hagari, spokesman for the Israeli army, but operations are “now focused on dismantling Hamas in the center and south.”
“We must ensure that the conflict does not spread,” for his part, underlined the head of American diplomacy, Antony Blinken, during a stopover in Crete, before his arrival in the evening in Amman to begin a tour of Arab countries and Israel.
- Antony Blinken says he wants to avoid an extension of the conflict at all costs
“One of the real concerns is the border between Israel and Lebanon and we want to do everything we can to make sure there is no escalation,” he added.
Pro-Iranian Lebanese Hezbollah fired dozens of rockets at a military base in Meron in northern Israel, an attack billed as its first response to the elimination, attributed to Israel, of the number two from Hamas, Saleh al-Arouri, Tuesday near Beirut.
The Israeli army said it had struck in return “a series of terrorist targets” of the Lebanese Shiite movement in southern Lebanon.
According to the Lebanese National Information Agency, Israeli strikes targeted several villages and towns in southern Lebanon, injuring a Syrian refugee.
Six fighters were killed, according to Hezbollah, a Hamas ally.
“Another way to eradicate Hamas”
Israel vowed to destroy Hamas after its unprecedented attack on Israeli soil on October 7, which killed around 1,140 people, mainly civilians, according to an AFP count based on the Israeli toll. Around 250 people were kidnapped, including around a hundred released during a truce at the end of November.
Families of the Israeli hostages also gathered in Tel Aviv in the evening, under the slogan “We cannot reach 100 days, bring back the hostages now! “.
Israeli operations in the Gaza Strip left 22,722 people dead, mostly women, children and adolescents, and more than 58,000 injured, according to a latest report from the Hamas Ministry of Health.
“This injustice must stop,” shouts Wali Mamluk, a resident of the al-Rimal neighborhood of Gaza City, in the north of the Palestinian territory, where rescuers are gathering the bodies of several people killed in a Israeli bombing, according to AFPTV.
“Where is the international community ? Where are the Arabs ?”, he protests.
“They killed our children, they killed our loved ones,” laments a woman further south, in front of the European hospital in Khan Younès, where the bodies of victims are pouring in, according to images from the 'AFPTV.
According to AFP journalists, strikes also targeted Rafah at night and early Saturday, at the southern tip of the Gaza Strip where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have flocked fleeing military operations further north.
The Israeli offensive has razed entire neighborhoods of Gaza and displaced 1.9 million people — 85% of the population according to the UN — who lack water, food, medicine and care, with hospitals mostly out of service.
The Gaza Strip has “simply become uninhabitable”, “a place of death and despair” lamented UN humanitarian affairs coordinator Martin Griffiths.
According to Unicef, fighting, malnutrition and the health situation threaten “more than 1.1 million children” in this small, overpopulated and impoverished territory.
“Israel has proclaimed its goal of eradicating Hamas. There must be another way to eradicate Hamas which would not cause so many deaths,” argued the head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, on Saturday, visiting Lebanon.
He also deemed it “absolutely necessary to prevent Lebanon from being drawn into a regional conflict.”
“Risk of conflagration”
Since October 8, almost daily exchanges of fire between Hezbollah and Israeli forces have left 181 people dead in Lebanon, including 135 fighters from the Shiite movement, according to an AFP count.
In Syria and Iraq, attacks on US military bases have also increased since October 7, while Houthi rebels in Yemen are disrupting global shipping in the Red Sea with attacks there ships, in the name of their “support” for the Palestinians.
The French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Catherine Colonna, called her Iranian counterpart, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, on Saturday to urge “Iran and its cronies” to “immediately” stop their “destabilizing actions” while “the risk of regional conflagration has never been so important.”
In a video message to the head of American diplomacy, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, based in Qatar, called on Mr. Blinken to “focus on ending” the Israeli offensive and the “end of the occupation of all Palestinian land.”
“The future of the Gaza Strip” will be “determined by the Palestinian people and not by Israel”, whose “all scenarios […] will only lead to failure”, for his part declared Saturday Hussein al- Sheikh, a senior Palestinian Authority official in the occupied West Bank, in response to the post-war options presented Thursday by Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.
This plan, which must still be examined by a divided government, advocates that the administration of Gaza be entrusted to “Palestinian entities” but excluding Hamas, classified as a terrorist group by Israel, the United States and the European Union.