Israeli leaders affirmed on Wednesday their commitment to continue the military operations in the Gaza Strip against Hamas, despite growing international pressure, including from key ally the United States. The conflict, now entering its third month, was initiated following unprecedented attacks on Israel by the Palestinian Hamas group on October 7, which Israeli officials claim resulted in the deaths of 1,200 people, predominantly civilians.
The ongoing war has left Gaza in ruins, claiming the lives of over 18,600 people, mostly women and children, as reported by the Hamas-run health ministry. The damage extends to an “unparalleled” level, affecting roads, schools, and hospitals.
Following the UN General Assembly’s overwhelming support for a non-binding resolution calling for a ceasefire, additional strikes continued to impact Gaza, with intense battles occurring, particularly in Gaza City—the largest urban center—and in Khan Yunis and Rafah in the south, as reported by AFP correspondents.
The territory endured wintery rain, further complicating the situation for its population. The UN estimates that 1.9 million out of Gaza’s 2.4 million inhabitants have been displaced, residing in makeshift tents while facing shortages of food, drinking water, medicines, and fuel.
The UN raised concerns about the heightened risk of diseases, including meningitis, jaundice, and upper respiratory tract infections. Ameen Edwan shared his family’s plight, stating they were among thousands camped on the grounds of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs hospital in central Gaza, where rainwater seeped in, making it difficult to sleep. He mentioned resorting to stones and sand to keep the water out.
The World Health Organization reported that only 107 humanitarian aid trucks entered Gaza from Egypt, well below the daily average of 500 before the events of October 7.
In Israel, air raid sirens sounded in Sderot and other southern communities near Gaza as Palestinian Hamas operatives launched rockets, most of which were intercepted. Additional sirens were reported in Ashdod city north of Gaza.
The Israeli army confirmed an airstrike on a Hamas operative cell in Gaza City’s Shejaiya district, stating that the cell was on its way to launch rockets toward Israel.
In Khan Yunis, a family mourned the loss of Fayez al-Taramsi, a father of seven, who was killed in a strike. One of his daughters, crying and holding his bloodied shirt, expressed the family’s grief, saying, “How are we going to live after him? He brought us to life.”
Following the deadliest attack in Israel’s 75-year history on October 7, where Hamas seized around 240 hostages, Israel initiated a comprehensive aerial and ground offensive with the goal of dismantling Hamas and securing the release of hostages. The ongoing conflict has resulted in the loss of 115 Israeli soldiers, including 10 on Tuesday, marking the deadliest day since the ground assault began on October 27.
On Tuesday, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution demanding a ceasefire, with the support of 153 out of 193 nations. While Washington voted against the resolution, allies Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, in a rare joint statement, expressed concern about the diminishing safe space for civilians in Gaza.
US President Joe Biden stated during a campaign event that Israel initially had significant global support after the events of October 7 but expressed concerns about a decline in that support due to indiscriminate bombing. Biden later met with families of American hostages taken by Hamas operatives.
US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby reiterated Washington’s concerns about civilian casualties and acknowledged that Hamas initiated the conflict. Biden had communicated these concerns publicly and privately with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Despite US criticism, Israel affirmed its commitment to the war. Foreign Minister Eli Cohen stated, “Israel will continue the war against Hamas with or without international support.” He emphasized that a ceasefire at the current stage would be a gift to Hamas, allowing the organization to return and threaten the residents of Israel.
“We will continue until the end. There is no question at all. I say this in light of great pain, but also in light of international pressure. Nothing will stop us. We are going until the end, until victory, nothing less than that,” declared Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
President Joe Biden’s national security advisor, Jake Sullivan, is scheduled to travel to Israel on Thursday to meet Netanyahu, who has acknowledged “disagreement” with Washington over the governance of post-conflict Gaza.
Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh asserted on Wednesday that any plan for post-war Gaza must involve the Palestinian Hamas group and the resistance factions. He expressed readiness for talks leading to a political path securing the Palestinian people’s right to an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital.
In response to the conflict, Washington and London announced additional sanctions targeting “key officials who perpetuate Hamas’s violent agenda.” The UN’s Tuesday vote coincided with Philippe Lazzarini, head of the Palestinian refugee agency, stating that Gazans are “running out of time and options.”
Gaza’s hospital system is severely damaged, and Hamas authorities have reported a shortage of vaccines for children, warning of potential “catastrophic health repercussions.”
According to a new analysis by the World Bank, “the loss of life, speed, and extent of damages… are unparalleled.”
The Hamas-controlled health ministry claimed that Israeli forces opened fire on wards of Kamal Adwan hospital in north Gaza. The Israeli army has not yet commented, but Israel has consistently accused Hamas of using hospitals, schools, mosques, and extensive tunnel systems as military bases.
Concerns persist about the conflict escalating further, as daily incidents continue along Israel’s border with Lebanon, where Hezbollah is stationed.