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Israel-Palestine: death toll rises sharply, as African nationals evacuated

The death toll continues to rise in Israel-Hamas war. 10/2023   -  
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Tel Aviv

The death toll on both sides continues to rise, after five days of ferocious fighting between Hamas and Israel, with Israel continuing its bombardment of Gaza on Wednesday.

Following Saturday's shock cross-border assault by Hamas militants, the Israeli death toll rose to 1,200 on Wednesday, while the Palestinian death toll rose to 900 as Israel pounded Gaza with air strikes. 

Hamas said two of its top officials had been killed, while Israel's military said the bodies of roughly 1,500 Hamas infiltrators had been found.

Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu has stoked fears of a regional conflagration, warning that Israel's military response to Saturday's attack is only the start of a sustained war to destroy the Islamist group and "change the Middle East".

Foreign nationals

Many nations have reported citizens killed, abducted or missing, including Brazil, Cambodia, Canada, Ireland, Mexico, Nepal, Panama, Paraguay, Russia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Ukraine.

On Monday, Hamas warned it would start killing its hostages every time Israel launches a strike on a civilian target in Gaza without warning. French President Emmanuel Macron called the threat "unacceptable blackmail."

Nationals from two African countries have reportedly been evacuated. 

300 Nigerians were airlifted home after fleeing to Jordan from Israel where they had been on a Christian pilgrimage, according to the Lagos state government. 

Kenya says it has accounted for all its nationals in Israel, even though officials say they have opened lines for distress calls. No Kenyan living or working in Israel has been hurt, the Principal Secretary for Diaspora Affairs, Roseline Njogu, said.

Gaza siege

Israel has imposed a "total siege" on Gaza, suspending supplies of food, water, electricity and fuel to the already blockaded enclave, with a dense population of about 2.3 million people. 

The United Nations said more than 263,000 people had been displaced inside Gaza, most taking shelter in UN schools.

"Israeli people they are scared of the Arabs and the Arabs are scared of the Jews... everybody is scared of each other," said Ahmed Karkash, a shopkeeper in the Old City.

After Israel imposed a total siege on Gaza, European Union foreign ministers called for humanitarian corridors for those trying to flee.

UN human rights chief Volker Turk said such sieges are prohibited under international humanitarian law.

Medical supplies, including oxygen, were running low at Gaza's overwhelmed Al-Shifa hospital, said Mohammed Ghonim, a doctor in the emergency room.

Unrest has also surged in the West Bank, where 15 Palestinians have been killed since Saturday.

Netanyahu, the veteran leader at the helm of Israel's hard-right coalition, has called for an "emergency government of national unity" after his administration's proposal for judicial reforms split the nation.