A spokesman for the health ministry in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip said on Sunday that Israeli military had struck a refugee camp on Saturday night, killing at least 38 people, as calls by the Arab world for a ceasefire were rejected by the United States and Israel.
By Nidal al-Mughrabi and Suleiman Al-Khalidi
GAZA/AMMAN – A spokesman for the health ministry in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip said on Sunday that Israeli military had struck a refugee camp on Saturday night, killing at least 38 people, as calls by the Arab world for a ceasefire were rejected by the United States and Israel.
With the death toll in Gaza mounting, pro-Palestinian demonstrators staged protests in cities around the world on Saturday, calling for an end to the nearly month-old war.
Gaza health officials said on Saturday more than 9,488 Palestinians have been killed in the war, which began when Hamas fighters launched a surprise attack on southern Israel on October 7, killing 1,400 people and taking more than 240 others hostage.
Israel continued to strike the Gaza Strip by air, sea, and ground overnight.
Gaza health officials said Israeli air strikes destroyed a cluster of houses in the Maghazi refugee camp. The Israeli military did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Reuters pictures showed people searching through rubble for victims or survivors at the refugee camp in central Gaza. One man, crying, was being embraced by others.
Mohammad Al-Aloul, a photographer for Turkish news agency Anadolu, said he lost his four children, four of his brothers and their children in the strike, which destroyed his house.
“I was doing my job when I heard that an Israeli air strike targeted a residential district in Maghazi and that there are martyrs and injured. The news began to trickle slowly slowly, telling me your daughter is wounded, your son is wounded,” Al-Aloul told Reuters.
“I arrived in hospital and found out that my four children, including my only daughter, were martyred.”
Salama Marouf, head of the Hamas government media office, told Reuters the strike in Maghazi killed at least 38 Palestinians and wounded 100, adding that an unknown number of people were missing. A Palestinian news agency earlier reported 51 dead. Reuters could not independently verify these accounts.
Israel says it is targeting Hamas, not civilians, and that the Islamist Palestinian group is using residents as human shields.
The Palestinian Red Crescent said there was also intense bombardment, violent artillery explosions, and air strikes in the vicinity of the Al-Quds Hospital in Gaza’s Tal Al-Hawa area.
Foreign ministers from Qatar, Saudi, Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates met US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Amman on Saturday and pushed for Washington to persuade Israel to agree to a ceasefire.
“This war is just going to produce more pain for Palestinians, for Israelis, and this is going to push us all again into the abyss of hatred and dehumanisation,” Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said at a press conference with Blinken. “So that needs to stop.”
However, the top US diplomat dismissed the idea of a ceasefire, saying it would only benefit Hamas, allowing it to regroup and attack again.
Washington had proposed localised pauses in fighting to allow in humanitarian aid and for people to leave the densely populated Gaza Strip. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected this when he met Blinken on Friday in Tel Aviv.
Blinken is to visit Turkey on Monday for talks on the conflict, continuing his second trip to the region since the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict reignited.
Speaking in Shanghai, Mohammad Mokhber, Iran’s first vice president, called Israeli actions “a war crime”, adding, “We need to end this immediately and provide more humanitarian assistance to Gaza.”
Israel’s assault and siege have stirred global alarm at humanitarian conditions in the narrow coastal enclave.
Pro-Palestinian demonstrators staged protests on Saturday in cities including London, Berlin, Paris, Istanbul, Jakarta and Washington, calling for a ceasefire.
Tens of thousands gathered in Washington to denounce President Joe Biden’s war policy and demand a ceasefire.
In Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi told tens of thousands gathered in Jakarta on Sunday that the government reaffirmed its support for the struggle of the Palestinian people and would send a second shipment of aid.
Worsening violence in the Israeli-occupied West Bank has fuelled concerns that the flashpoint Palestinian territory could become a third front in a wider war, in addition to Israel’s northern border, where clashes with Lebanese Hezbollah forces have mounted.
In Abu Dis, a Palestinian village near Jerusalem, Israeli police conducting an arrest raid were fired on by a gunman and killed him, a police spokesperson said.
The Palestinian health ministry said three Palestinians were killed in the incident, which it described as clashes with Israeli forces. Another Palestinian was killed by Israeli troops in the West Bank city of Hebron, the ministry said. The Israeli military did not immediately comment on that.
“This has been a serious problem that’s only worsened since the conflict,” Blinken said, adding that he raised it on Friday in his meetings with Israeli officials. “Perpetrators must be held accountable.”
This year had already been the deadliest for West Bank residents in at least 15 years, with some 200 Palestinians and 26 Israelis killed, according to UN data. Since the war in Gaza began, 121 West Bank Palestinians have been killed.
Daily attacks by Israeli settlers have more than doubled, UN figures show, even though most of the deaths have occurred during clashes with Israeli soldiers.
ENCIRCLING GAZA CITY
Israel last month ordered all civilians to leave the northern part of the Gaza Strip and its military has since encircled Gaza City, where it is engaged in fierce street fighting with Hamas militants.
Israeli planes dropped leaflets on Gaza’s biggest city, ordering people to move south through the Salah Al-Deen Road between 10am and 2pm (0800-1200 GMT) on Sunday.
“Time has come, the state of Israel asks you to preserve your lives and to evacuate your homes from the areas of fighting,” the leaflets said.
US special envoy David Satterfield said in Amman on Saturday that 800,000 to a million people had moved south, while 350,000 to 400,000 remained in and around Gaza City.
Living conditions in Gaza, already dire before the war, have deteriorated. Food is scarce, residents are drinking salty water and medical services are collapsing.
The UN humanitarian office estimates that nearly 1.5 million of Gaza’s 2.3 million people are internally displaced.