After 66 days of conflict between Israel and Hamas, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu declared the “beginning of the end” for Hamas, while Palestinians called for a global strike in solidarity with Gaza.
Heavy urban battles raged on Monday in the bloodiest Gaza war ever, which has claimed the lives of 101 Israeli soldiers and around 18,000 Palestinians, according to the latest reported death tolls, amid a spiraling humanitarian crisis.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on the Islamist group to “surrender now” after his national security advisor claimed the army had killed some 7,000 militants in fighting concentrated in southern Gaza.
“It is the beginning of the end of Hamas. I say to the Hamas terrorists: It’s over. Don’t die for (Yahya) Sinwar,” the right-wing premier said on Sunday, referring to the Hamas chief in the Gaza Strip.
More airstrikes rained down on the biggest southern city of Khan Yunis overnight, as reported by AFP correspondents, while deadly fighting and bombing were also reported in central and northern urban areas of Gaza.
International Strike for Gaza
Palestinian groups called for a general strike Monday in solidarity with Gaza, and many shops, schools, and government offices were shut across the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
According to the Palestinian News Agency (WAFA), on December 11, the Palestinian territories initiated a general strike in alignment with the call for a global strike in solidarity with the situation in Gaza. The strike was called by the National and the Islamic Forces in the West Bank, leading to the paralysis of public transportation, education, the financial sector, and shops, WAFA reported.
The UN General Assembly was set to meet Tuesday to discuss the dire situation in Gaza, its president said, after the United States vetoed a Security Council resolution for a ceasefire last Friday.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken again rejected a ceasefire.
“With Hamas still alive, still intact and… with the stated intent of repeating October 7 again and again and again, that would simply perpetuate the problem,” he told ABC News on Sunday.
But Blinken also said Washington was “deeply, deeply aware of the terrible human toll that this conflict is taking on innocent men, women, and children.”
The UN estimates that 1.9 million of Gaza’s 2.4 million people have been displaced—roughly half of them children—by the war and intense bombing campaign that has reduced vast areas to rubble.
Israel had urged civilians to seek refuge in Gaza’s far south, but the army has kept striking targets throughout the territory, leading to UN warnings that there is no safe place left in Gaza.
The army has published complex maps that break up Gaza into dozens of ostensibly safe and unsafe areas, but Palestinians say these are confusing and hard to access amid power and telecom outages. Lynn Hastings, UN humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories, condemned the mapping software as inadequate.
The war and siege have taken a heavy toll on basic services, especially health care, with only 14 of Gaza’s 36 hospitals functioning at any capacity, according to the UN humanitarian agency OCHA.
AFP visited the Al-Shifa hospital complex in Gaza City and found at least 30,000 people taking refuge amid the rubble outside after Israeli forces raided the medical facility last month.
Israeli strikes overnight near Damascus killed two Hezbollah fighters and two Syrians working with the Lebanese group, said war monitor the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Miroslava Salazar, with AFP