Gaza Death Toll Rises as Israel Intensifies Bombing and Siege

The Israeli aggression against the besieged Gaza Strip has entered its third week, with no signs of stopping. The Palestinian health ministry said on Tuesday that at least 200 people were martyred in Israeli strikes in the last 24 hours, bringing the total death toll to more than 5,000 since October 7.

The health ministry also said that more than 18,000 people have been injured and more than one million have been displaced by the Israeli bombardment, which has targeted residential buildings, schools, mosques, hospitals and infrastructure.

The Israeli military said it had hit more than 400 targets in Gaza overnight, including tunnels, command centres and rocket launchers. It also claimed to have killed dozens of Hamas fighters, including three deputy battalion commanders.

However, most of the victims have been civilians, including more than 1,000 women and children. Among the martyrs were 500 patients and staff at the al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City, which was hit by an Israeli strike on Sunday. The hospital was one of the few functioning medical facilities in Gaza, where supplies of food, water, medicine and fuel are running low due to the Israeli siege.

The Israeli siege has also prevented humanitarian aid from reaching Gaza, as well as people from leaving the enclave. The Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt, the only remaining outlet for Gazans, has been closed for most of the past week. The US Embassy in Israel warned on Monday that the crossing may open at short notice and for a limited time, urging those who wish to exit Gaza to move closer to the border.

The US has also urged Israel to provide more aid to Gaza and to avoid civilian casualties. However, it has not called for an immediate ceasefire or condemned Israel’s actions. US President Barack Obama said on Monday that he supports Israel’s right to defend itself, but cautioned it not to alienate generations of Palestinians.

Meanwhile, diplomatic efforts to address the crisis are intensifying. Egypt, which has been mediating between Israel and Hamas, faces pressure from the international community and regional powers to open a humanitarian corridor and broker a truce. Qatar, Turkey and Iran have also expressed their support for Hamas and condemned Israel’s aggression.

Hamas, which controls Gaza, has said it will not accept a ceasefire unless Israel lifts its blockade and ends its occupation of Palestinian lands. It has also demanded the release of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel. Hamas has continued to fire rockets into Israel, killing 1,400 people since October 7. It has also taken several Israeli hostages, including two soldiers and four civilians.

On Monday night, Hamas released two elderly hostages as a goodwill gesture and called for a humanitarian pause. However, Israel rejected the offer and said it will not negotiate with Hamas until it stops firing rockets. Israel’s Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Herzi Halevi said on Tuesday that Israel wants to bring Hamas to a state of full dismantling and that it is preparing for significant ground operations in Gaza.

As the Israeli forces await orders for a ground invasion, US Marine Corps Lt Gen James Glynn, ex-commander of Marine Forces Special Operations Command, is set to counsel the Israeli forces on their current operations, according to a US official familiar with the matter.

The conflict in Gaza is the bloodiest episode of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in decades. It has sparked protests and solidarity rallies across the world, as well as incidents of violence and anti-Semitism. The UN and human rights groups have warned of war crimes and violations of international law by both sides. They have also called for an urgent end to hostilities and a lasting solution to the conflict.

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