Gaza is becoming a children’s graveyard — United Nations
GAZA — Gaza is becoming a “graveyard for children,” United Nations (U.N.) Secretary General Antonio Guterres said on Monday, amplifying demands for a ceasefire in the enclave, where Palestinian health authorities said the death toll from Israeli strikes had exceeded 10,000.
Both Israel and the Hamas militants who control Gaza have rebuffed mounting international pressure for a ceasefire. Israel says hostages taken by Hamas during its rampage in southern Israel on Oct. 7 should be released first; Hamas says it will not free them or stop fighting while Gaza is under assault.
“Ground operations by the Israel Defense Forces and continued bombardment are hitting civilians, hospitals, refugee camps, mosques, churches and U.N. facilities — including shelters. No one is safe,” Mr. Guterres told reporters.
“At the same time, Hamas and other militants use civilians as human shields and continue to launch rockets indiscriminately towards Israel,” he said, calling for an immediate and unconditional release of all hostages.
Israel said 31 soldiers had been killed since it began expanded ground operations in Gaza on Oct. 27 and reiterated that Hamas was hiding with civilians and at hospitals. Hamas said the idea that Hamas was based in hospitals was a “false narrative that the U.N. should verify.
A Reuters journalist in Gaza said Israel’s overnight bombardment by air, ground and sea was one of its most intense since the Oct. 7 attack in which Hamas killed 1,400 people in Israel and seized more than 240 hostages.
The health ministry in the Hamas-controlled enclave said at least 10,022 people in Gaza have since been killed, including 4,104 children.
“Gaza is becoming a graveyard for children. Hundreds of girls and boys are reportedly being killed or injured every day,” Mr. Guterres said.
International organizations have said hospitals cannot cope with the wounded and food and clean water are running out with aid deliveries nowhere near enough.
Mr. Guterres said 89 people working with the U.N. Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA) were among the dead. UNRWA said five colleagues had been killed in the past 24 hours alone.
“We need an immediate humanitarian ceasefire. It’s been 30 days. Enough is enough. This must stop now,” an earlier statement by 18 U.N. organizations said.
The United States is pushing hard to arrange pauses in the conflict to allow in aid rather than a full ceasefire, arguing, like Israel, that Hamas militants would just take advantage.
US President Joseph R. Biden discussed such pauses and possible hostage releases in a phone call with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, reiterating his support for Israel while emphasizing that it must protect civilians, the White House said.
The faces of hostages were projected onto the wall of Jerusalem’s Old City on the eve of the one-month anniversary of the attack.
The Israeli military said its forces had taken a militant compound and were poised to attack Hamas fighters hiding in underground tunnels and bunkers in the northern Gaza Strip, having isolated the area with troops and tanks. It released video of tanks moving through bombed-out streets and groups of troops moving on foot.
“Now we are going to start closing in on them,” Lieutenant-Colonel Richard Hecht told reporters.
The armed wing of Hamas, the Al-Qassam brigades, said it had damaged 27 Israeli military vehicles in 48 hours and inflicted significant losses in direct engagements with Israeli troops.
The health ministry in Gaza said dozens of people were killed by Israeli airstrikes in the north and south, including on Gaza City’s Rantissi cancer hospital, where eight people were killed. Israel’s military said it was looking into the report. — Reuters