Israel bombs Gaza as rift with US grows


Israel bombed Gaza on Thursday as a top White House advisor was due to arrive in Jerusalem with a rift growing over U.S. calls for its ally to exercise restraint.

The war has left besieged Gaza in ruins, killing more than 18,600 people, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run health ministry, and devastating homes, roads, schools and hospitals.

The ministry said Israeli air strikes early Thursday had killed at least 19 people across the Gaza Strip.

In the West Bank, which has also seen a surge in violence since October 7, the Palestinian Authority said two people were killed in Israeli strikes in the city of Jenin.

U.S. President Joe Biden, whose government has provided billions of dollars in military aid to Israel, on Wednesday gave his sharpest rebuke of the war yet, saying Israel’s “indiscriminate bombing” of Gaza was weakening international support.

But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu doubled down on his offensive, vowing “we are going until the end, until victory, nothing less than that”.

And Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said the war against Hamas would continue “with or without international support”.

On Thursday, Biden’s National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan was due to arrive in Jerusalem for talks with Netanyahu and his war cabinet.

Sullivan told a Wall Street Journal event ahead of his trip he would discuss a timetable to end the war and urge Israeli leaders “to move to a different phase from the kind of high-intensity operations that we see today”.

Netanyahu has said there is also “disagreement” with Washington over how a post-conflict Gaza would be governed.

Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh said on Wednesday “any arrangement in Gaza or in the Palestinian cause without Hamas or the resistance factions is a delusion”.

He said Hamas was ready for talks that could lead to a “political path that secures the right of the Palestinian people to their independent state with Jerusalem as its capital”.

‘Darkest chapter’ 

Diplomatic pressure is mounting on Israel to better protect civilians, with the U.N. General Assembly this week overwhelmingly backing a non-binding resolution for a ceasefire.

While Washington voted against, the resolution was supported by allies Australia, Canada and New Zealand, who, in a rare joint statement, said they were “alarmed at the diminishing safe space for civilians in Gaza”.

CNN reported on Wednesday citing U.S. intelligence that nearly half of the air-to-ground munitions used by Israel in Gaza since October 7 have been unguided, which can pose a greater threat to civilians.

The head of the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, Philippe Lazzarini, said on Wednesday that Gazans were “facing the darkest chapter of their history”.

Wintry rain lashed the territory, where the UN estimates 1.9 million of Gaza’s 2.4 million population have been displaced, living in makeshift tents as supplies of food, drinking water, medicines and fuel run low.

Ameen Edwan said his family was camped out with thousands in the grounds of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs hospital in central Gaza.

“Rainwater seeped in. We couldn’t sleep. We tried to find nylon covers but couldn’t find any, so we resorted to stones and sand” to keep the water out, he said.

The southern city of Rafah near the Egyptian border has become a vast camp for the displaced, with hundreds of tents erected using wood and plastic sheets.

“We spent five days outdoors. And now the rain has flooded the tents,” said a displaced resident, Bilal al-Qassas.

Gusts of wind shook the fragile structures, while people tried to reinforce them with more plastic sheeting.

“Where do we migrate to? Our dignity is gone. Where do women relieve themselves? There are no bathrooms,” said 41-year-old Qassas.

The U.N. warned the spread of diseases  —  including meningitis, jaundice and upper respiratory tract infections — had intensified.

Gaza’s hospital system is in ruins, and Hamas authorities said vaccines for children had run out, warning of “catastrophic health repercussions”.

The Hamas-controlled health ministry said Israeli forces opened fire on wards of Kamal Adwan hospital in north Gaza.

The army has yet to comment, but Israel has repeatedly accused Hamas of using hospitals, schools, mosques and vast tunnel systems beneath them as military bases — charges it denies.


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