Hamas says Gaza death toll tops 10,000 as Israel steps up war
88 UN workers killed in Israel-Hamas war: statement
November 6, 2023 10:06 PM
The death toll in Gaza has surpassed 10,000 people, the Hamas-run health ministry said Monday after nearly one month of bombardment by Israel whose offensive against Palestinian militants showed signs of intensifying.
Determined to destroy Hamas whose October 7 attack left 1,400 dead in Israel, most of them civilians, and saw over 240 hostages taken according to Israeli officials, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed no letup despite mounting calls for a ceasefire.
The total included 292 killed in the overnight barrage which hit two paediatric hospitals and Gaza's only psychiatric hospital, the ministry said.
"These are massacres! They destroyed three houses over the heads of their inhabitants -- women and children," Mahmud Meshmesh, resident of Deir al-Balah in central Gaza, told AFP.
"We have already taken 40 bodies out of the rubble," he said as crowds prayed around corpses wrapped in white shrouds.
The Israeli military accuses Hamas of building tunnels underneath hospitals, schools and places of worship in Gaza to hide fighters, store arms and ammunition, and plan attacks -- charges the militant group has denied.
Ground forces with tanks have flooded the northern half of the Gaza Strip and tightened an encirclement of Gaza City, effectively splitting the territory in two.
Israel's ally the United States sent its top diplomat Antony Blinken on a whirlwind Middle East tour that wrapped up on Monday in Turkey, where again his host pressed for an Israeli ceasefire, which Washington has declined to endorse.
The heads of major United Nations agencies issued a joint statement also calling for a ceasefire inside the territory of 2.4 million people where an Israeli siege has cut off most water, food and fuel supplies.
"It's been 30 days. Enough is enough. This must stop now," the statement said.
The Israeli army said on Monday it had pounded Gaza with "significant" strikes on 450 targets, having said last week it had already hit over 12,000. It also reported seizing a Hamas command post and killing a Hamas commander accused of helping organise the October 7 attacks and planning future incursions.
"We will be able to dismantle Hamas, stronghold after stronghold, battalion after battalion, until we achieve the ultimate goal, which is to rid the Gaza Strip -- the entire Gaza Strip -- of Hamas," Israeli army spokesman Jonathan Conricus said.
A top Hamas official in Lebanon, Osama Hamdan, said the group, which fired 16 rockets from Lebanon towards northern Israel on Monday, would never accept a puppet government in Gaza and that "no force on earth could annihilate" it.
- Evacuations resume -
Israeli troops and Hamas fighters have engaged in fierce house-to-house combat in densely populated north Gaza, where the UN says the war has sent some 1.5 million people fleeing to other parts of the territory.
Netanyahu, who has rejected any talk of a ceasefire until hostages are returned, said on Monday Israel was "fighting the battle of civilisation against barbarism".
He vowed to minimise civilian casualties and accused Hamas of "doing everything in its power to keep them (civilians) in harm's way", according to an official readout following a meeting with Bulgarian Prime Minister Nikolay Denkov.
Israel has air-dropped leaflets and sent text messages ordering Palestinian civilians in northern Gaza to head south. A US official said Saturday at least 350,000 civilians remained in the worst-hit areas.
The Rafah crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt reopened Monday to allow the evacuation of foreigners and dual nationals, the Hamas government said, ending a two-day closure prompted by a dispute over the passage of ambulances.
Six ambulances carrying wounded Gazans arrived in Egypt on Monday as evacuations resumed, a border official said.
On his regional tour, Blinken called for "humanitarian pauses" while rejecting Arab countries' demands for a ceasefire.
After meeting his Turkish counterpart Hakan Fidan on Monday, Blinken said Washington was working "very aggressively" to expand aid for trapped civilians in Gaza, but he did not provide details before boarding a flight to Japan.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was travelling across his country's remote northeast on Monday, apparently snubbing Blinken.
NATO member Turkey, which is allied to the Palestinians but also has ties with Israel, has said it is recalling its ambassador to Israel and breaking off contacts with Netanyahu.
- West Bank unrest -
The war has exacerbated tensions in the occupied West Bank, where more than 150 Palestinians have been killed in clashes with Israeli forces and settlers since it started, according to the Palestinian health ministry.
In Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, a 20-year-old Israeli border policewoman died after a knife-wielding Palestinian assailant stabbed her in front of a police station, the force said.
The assailant, identified by police as a 16-year-old Palestinian from east Jerusalem, was killed.
And elsewhere in the West Bank, Israeli forces killed four Palestinians on Monday, according to the Ramallah-based Palestinian health ministry.
The Israeli military said Monday it had arrested Palestinian activist Ahed Tamimi, 22, in a raid in her West Bank town of Nabi Salih on suspicion of "inciting violence and terrorist activities".
Overall, the army said more than 1,350 Palestinians had been arrested across the West Bank since October 7, with "over 850 of them affiliated with Hamas".
Tamimi became prominent at age 14 when she was filmed biting an Israeli soldier to prevent him from arresting her younger brother, and for later slapping another Israeli soldier.
A large portrait of her was painted on the Israeli separation wall with the West Bank.
When AFP asked about the reasons for her arrest, a security source forwarded an Instagram post, which has circulated widely and is attributed to the young activist.
According to the post, written in Arabic and Hebrew, she called for the massacre of Israelis in explicitly violent terms, referring to Hitler.
Her mother, Narimane Tamimi, denied that she wrote the post and added that "when Ahed tries to open a social media account, it's immediately blocked".
How Gaza's Hamas-run health ministry counted 10,000 war dead
The health ministry in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip announced on Monday that the death toll from Israel's ongoing bombardment of the Palestinian enclave had exceeded 10,000 people.
Israel launched a devastating aerial campaign, followed by a siege and later a ground invasion in reprisal for the Hamas attack on southern Israel on October 7, the deadliest in the country's history.
Israel's leaders have said they are determined to eradicate the Islamist movement that has controlled Gaza since 2007.
More than 1,400 people were killed in the surprise attack, mostly civilians, according to Israeli authorities.
The 10,022 deaths in the Gaza Strip were announced in a press conference by a health ministry spokesman, Ashraf al-Qidreh, on Monday, the 31st day of the war.
He said that at least 292 Palestinians were killed overnight in intense Israeli bombing and accused them of "perpetrating 19 massacres in the last few hours".
The health ministry said the majority of the deaths since the start of the war have been civilians, including 4,000 children.
- List of names -
In an effort to prove the credibility of their figures, on October 26, the health ministry published a list of nearly 7,000 names, all people whom it said had been killed in the war up to that point.
The list included the sex, age and identity number of each person killed.
The ministry, which falls under Gaza's Hamas government, said it published the record to "reveal to the whole world the details and the names so that they might know the truth".
It explained in an accompanying document that in governmental hospitals, which fall under Hamas's governance, the personal information and ID number of each killed Palestinian is entered into a computerised database after the body arrives or after they succumb to their wounds.
This data is then transmitted daily to the "central register of martyrs" at the health ministry.
If the dead are taken to a private hospital, their personal information is recorded on a special form which is sent "within 24 hours" to the health ministry, which then adds the details to its central database.
The ministry said that a dedicated information centre verifies the data provided by both types of hospitals before it is entered into the database to ensure it "does not contain duplicates or errors".
- Figures used by UN -
At the end of October, AFP was able to observe the verification process in action in the morgue of Nasser Hospital in Khan Yunis, in southern Gaza.
A pathologist examined each body, took a photo and noted down the name and the location of the bombing in which the individual was killed.
Based on the information provided by the pathologists, the patient management office filled out a form with the details of each "martyr" before entering the details into a digital database.
On his computer, hospital director Nahed Abu Taaema displayed a programme listing "martyrs" -- those killed in the conflict with Israel -- in one tab and unrelated deaths in another.
On October 27, the head of the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), Philippe Lazzarini, said the death tolls published by the health ministry in previous conflicts had never been questioned.
The figures published by the ministry are also used by the World Health Organisation for its reports on the Palestinian Territories.
88 UN workers killed in Israel-Hamas war: statement
"For almost a month, the world has been watching the unfolding situation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory in shock and horror at the spiralling numbers of lives lost and torn apart," the heads of 18 UN organizations including UNICEF and the World Health Organization said in a rare joint statement late Sunday.
"Scores of aid workers have been killed since October 7 including 88 UNRWA colleagues -- the highest number of United Nations fatalities ever recorded in a single conflict," they said, referring to the UN relief and works agency for Palestinian refugees.
During the last heavy conflict in Gaza between Israel and Hamas, in 2014, 11 UNRWA staff were killed, according to the United Nations.
The UNRWA currently employs some 13,000 staff in the Gaza Strip, a besieged territory that is home to 2.4 million people.
The agency chiefs expressed revulsion at the toll on both sides since the October 7 cross-border attack by Hamas Palestinian militants from Gaza into Israel, which left about 1,400 people dead, mainly civilians, Israeli authorities say.
Israel has retaliated with relentless air and artillery strikes that have killed at least 10,000 people, also mostly civilians, as of Monday, according to a new toll announced by the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza.