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Netanyahu vows more Gaza bombing as death toll mounts

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, speaks to soldiers as he visits the northern Gaza Strip on Monday, Dec. 25, 2023   -  
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Avi Ohayon/AP


Dozens of Palestinians have been killed since Sunday in massive Israeli strikes in Gaza, where Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited on Monday, promising an intensified offensive against Hamas in this devastated and besieged territory.

The conflict also continues to fuel the risk of a regional conflagration: Iran, an ally of Lebanese Hezbollah and Palestinian Hamas, accused Israel of killing a leader of the Revolutionary Guards, its ideological army, in a strike in Syria and vowed to avenge his death.

Triggered over two months ago by an unprecedented Hamas attack on Israel, the war offers no respite to Palestinian civilians threatened with starvation according to the UN, despite urgent calls for a ceasefire.

According to the latest figures from the Ministry of Health of Hamas, which has been in power in Gaza since 2007, 20,674 people have been killed in Israeli military operations, the majority of them women and children, and almost 55,000 wounded.

The offensive, Israel's bloodiest ever against Hamas in Gaza, was launched in retaliation for the Palestinian Islamist movement's attack on its soil on October 7, which left around 1,140 people dead, most of them civilians, according to the latest official Israeli figures. Palestinian commandos also abducted around 250 people, 129 of whom remain in custody in Gaza.

Israel has vowed to destroy Hamas, which it considers a terrorist organization, along with the United States and the European Union.

Before dawn on Monday, the Israeli air force bombed the Gaza Strip on a massive scale. One strike near the village of Al-Zawaida (center) left 12 people dead, and another at least 18 dead in Khan Younès (south), according to the Hamas Ministry of Health.

By Sunday evening, at least 70 people had been killed in a strike on the al-Maghazi refugee camp (center), according to this source. The Israeli army, which said it was doing its utmost to spare civilians, said it was "verifying the incident".

"And if it was your son!"

On the Israeli side, the army announced the death of two soldiers, bringing to 156 the number of its servicemen killed since the launch of the ground offensive in Gaza on October 27, 20 days after the start of aerial bombardments.

Palestinian fighters have fired rockets into Israel during the day, most of which are usually intercepted by the Israeli missile defense system.

Despite growing calls for a ceasefire, a heavy human toll and a humanitarian crisis described as catastrophic by the UN and NGOs, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remains adamant.

"We're not stopping (...) we're stepping up the fighting in the coming days. It's going to be a long war", he insisted on Monday after visiting Gaza, in front of members of his Likud party.

Mr. Netanyahu was heckled during a speech in Parliament on Monday by families of hostages demanding their release, who chanted "Now, now!".

"What if it was your son?", "80 days, every minute is hell", read banners held up by the families.

In the evening, relatives of hostages demonstrated outside the Ministry of Defense in Tel Aviv before a meeting of the war cabinet.

"Free our hostages now! At any price", proclaimed one placard.

Hamas demands an end to the fighting before entering into new negotiations for hostage releases.

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