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UN says Gaza war must stop as reported death toll tops 10,000

israeli military units operate at an undisclosed location near the gaza strip border
An Israeli military unit fires from an undisclosed location near the Gaza Strip border, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Israel, November 6, 2023. REUTERS/Amir Cohen TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Gaza is becoming a “graveyard for children”, U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres said on Monday, calling for an urgent 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,” 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.

Earlier 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 has urged the U.N. to verify the “false narrative” that Hamas is based in hospitals.

A Reuters journalist in Gaza said Israel’s overnight bombardment by air, ground and sea was one of the most intense in its offensive prompted by the Oct. 7 attack in which Hamas killed 1,400 people and seized more than 240 hostages.

The health ministry in the Hamas-controlled enclave said at least 10,022 Palestinians 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,” Guterres said.

International organisations have said hospitals cannot cope with the wounded and food and clean water are running out with aid deliveries nowhere near enough.

“We need an immediate humanitarian ceasefire. It’s been 30 days. Enough is enough. This must stop now,” said an earlier statement from 18 signatories including U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk, World Health Organization head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and U.N. aid chief Martin Griffiths.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is touring the region to try to reduce the risks of the conflict escalating, get more aid into Gaza and draw up plans for a sustainable future for both Israel and the Palestinians.

Washington is seeking pauses in fighting to allow in aid rather than a ceasefire, arguing, like Israel, that Hamas militants would just take advantage.

“We are working very aggressively on getting more humanitarian assistance in Gaza,” Blinken said in Turkey. “I think we’ll see in the days ahead that assistance can expand in significant ways.”

ISRAEL SAYS IT IS CLOSING IN ON HAMAS

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 air strikes in the north and south, with eight killed in an air strike that hit Gaza City’s Rantissi cancer hospital. Israel’s military said it was looking into the report.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it had escorted escorted a four-ambulance convoy of patients from Gaza City to the Rafah border crossing with Egypt. Evacuations had been suspended since an Israeli strike on an ambulance on Friday but three Egyptian security sources said dozens of foreign passport holders also left on Monday.

Blinken’s visit to Turkey followed an unannounced trip to the Israeli-occupied West Bank to show support for Palestinians there and in Gaza and an earlier visit to Israel, as well as talks in neighbouring Jordan with regional Arab leaders.

U.S. President Joe Biden spoke with Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu by phone on Monday, with U.S. CIA Director William Burns expected to be in Israel to discuss the war and intelligence with officials, the New York Times reported. Burns will also make stops in other regional states, it quoted an unnamed U.S. official as saying.

The CIA did not respond to Reuters’ request for comment.

U.S. Central Command, which covers the Middle East, said on X a nuclear missile submarine had arrived in the region – an unusual announcement seen by some analysts as a message to Iran, an Israeli foe.

ROCKETS LAUNCHED

Iran supports Hamas as well as other Islamist militants in the region, including Hezbollah in Lebanon, which has exchanged fire with Israel repeatedly since Israel declared war on Hamas over the Oct. 7 attack.

Israel said on Monday it had detected about 30 rocket launches from Lebanon in an hour. Hamas said it had launched 16 missiles towards Nahariyya and Southern Haifa in Israel.

People searched for victims or survivors at the Maghazi refugee camp in Gaza, where the health ministry said Israeli forces had killed at least 47 people in strikes early on Sunday.

“All night I and the other men were trying to pick the dead from the rubble. We got children, dismembered, torn-apart flesh,” said Saeed al-Nejma, 53. Asked for comment, the Israeli military said it was gathering details.

The Israeli military said a four-hour window for civilians to leave the north would be repeated daily. U.N. monitoring showed fewer than 2,000 people used the corridor on Sunday, citing fear and road damage. Between 350,000 and 400,000 people are still in the north, a U.S. envoy said on Saturday.

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