Israel increasingly isolated as Gaza deaths mount, Biden faces criticism

  • Recent Developments:
  • Worst Israeli combat losses in over a month
  • Fierce fighting in the north and south at the same time
  • British doctor at Khan Younis Hospital: Doctors ‘step on bodies of children to treat dying children’

Cairo/Gaza, Dec. 13 (Reuters) – Israel is increasingly isolating itself diplomatically in Gaza as the United Nations calls for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.

With intense fighting now raging simultaneously in the enclave’s north and south, Israeli troops on Wednesday reported their worst combat casualties in more than a month, including a colonel, the highest-ranking officer ever killed in the ground campaign.

Warplanes have again bombed the length of Gaza and the arrival of rainy winter weather has worsened conditions for hundreds of thousands of families sleeping rough in makeshift tents, aid officials said. Most of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have already been made homeless.

Israel began its campaign to destroy the Hamas militant group that controls Gaza after crossing the border fence on October 7, killing 1,200 Israelis and taking 240 hostages.

But since then, Israeli forces have laid siege to the site and laid waste to much of it, with more than 18,000 people confirmed dead, according to Palestinian health officials, and many thousands more feared missing in the rubble or beyond the ambulances.

Since the collapse of a week-long ceasefire in early December, Israeli forces have expanded their ground campaign from the northern Gaza Strip south to the main southern city of Khan Younis.

Meanwhile, fighting has intensified amid the ruins of the north, where Israel had previously declared its military objectives largely accomplished.

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In the past 24 hours, Israel announced the killing of ten of its soldiers, including a full colonel commanding a forward base and a lieutenant-colonel commanding a platoon. After 15 people were killed on October 31, it was a one-day defeat.

According to Army Radio, most of the deaths occurred in the Shejaiya district of Gaza City in the north, when an infantry unit hunting Hamas gunmen entered a building and lost contact with the rear base. When another unit was sent to follow them, explosives were planted in the building and gunmen opened fire.

‘Bringing Destruction and Death’

Hamas said the incident showed Israeli forces could never subdue Gaza: “We are telling the Zionists that your failed leadership has no regard for the lives of your soldiers,” it said. “The longer you stay there, the more your deaths and losses will increase, and you will emerge from it carrying a tail of disappointment and loss, God willing.”

Heavy fighting also broke out in the north, in the Jabaliya district, where Gaza health officials say Israeli forces have besieged and attacked a hospital, detaining and abusing medical staff.

In the south, Israeli forces attacking Khan Yunis have advanced into the city center in recent days. Residents said there was heavy fighting, but no advance was made in the last 24 hours.

“The Israeli tanks did not move further from the center of the city. They are facing heavy resistance and we are also hearing gunfire, explosions,” Abu Abdullah, a father of five who lives 2 km away, told Reuters.

The Israelis brought in bulldozers and were destroying the road near Hamas leader Khan Younis’ home in Gaza, Yahya al-Sinwar, Abu Abdullah said. “They only bring destruction and death wherever they go at the expense of our innocent defenseless civilians.”

Hospitals in the north have largely shut down. In the south, they were overrun with dead and wounded, carried by the dozens throughout the day and night.

“Doctors, including myself, are treating children who are dying in the bodies of children,” Dr Chris Hook, a British doctor working with the medical charity MSF at Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, told Reuters.

International agencies say the limited aid reaching Gaza is being distributed in parts of Rafah near the Egyptian border. Even there, the situation has become more acute this week, with hundreds of thousands of people sheltering under tarps.

Rafah-based Gemma Connell, head of the UN humanitarian office OCHA’s Gaza team, told Reuters in a news release: “Heavy rain and wind overnight. So pathetic for all these people in makeshift shelters.”

Israel says it is encouraging an increase in aid to Gaza through Egypt’s border, and has announced daily four-hour pauses in operations near Rafah to help civilians. The UN says complicated inspections and insecurity have delayed aid.

UN vote

UN calls for ceasefire The General Assembly vote carries no legal force, but is a powerful sign of eroding international support for Israel’s actions. Three-quarters of the 193 member states voted in favor, with only eight voting against, along with the United States and Israel.

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Before the vote, Biden said Israel still had support from “much of the world,” including the United States and the European Union, for its fight against Hamas.

“But they’re starting to lose that support with indiscriminate bombing,” he said at a campaign donor event in Washington.

America’s closest intelligence-sharing allies Canada, Australia and New Zealand said in a joint statement: “The price of defeating Hamas cannot be the continued suffering of all Palestinian citizens.”

In the most public sign of the rift between US and Israeli leaders so far, Biden said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must replace his hardline government and that Israel “can’t say no” to an independent Palestinian state eventually. The rightful members of the Israeli cabinet.

Netanyahu said Israel disagrees with Washington over Gaza’s future after the war and opposes US calls for Gaza to be ruled by the Western-backed Palestinian Authority, which now exercises partial self-rule in the West Bank.

A Reuters report by Khan Younis, Bassam Massoud in Gaza, Nidal al-Mughrabi in Cairo, Maggie Figg and Peter Graf in London; Editing by Nick MacPhee

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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A veteran reporter with nearly 25 years of experience covering the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, including several wars and the signing of the first historic peace agreement between the two sides.

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