Israel-Hamas war: Gaza health officials say more than 20,000 Palestinians have been killed.

Rafah, Gaza Strip (AP) — The death toll of Palestinians in Gaza has surpassed 20,000, health officials said Friday, the latest sign of the staggering cost of Israel’s war. Ground attack And tens of thousands of people were ordered to leave their homes.

The deaths, about 1% of the territory’s pre-war population, are a measure of the devastation wrought by the conflict, which has displaced nearly 85% of Gaza’s population and leveled vast swathes of land over 11 weeks. A small coastal area.

More than half a million people in Gaza – a quarter of the population – are starving Thursday for a statement From the United Nations and other organizations describing the crisis caused by Israel’s bombing and blockade of the area in response to Hamas October 7 attack.

Despite the emergency, the UN It was late again on ThursdayAfter several days of high-level negotiations.

The US, which has veto power, has pushed back against calls for an immediate ceasefire and left the UN with full responsibility for inspecting aid deliveries. Israel insists it can screen goods entering Gaza, citing security reasons.

The US said it supported a revised resolution that called for “creating the conditions” for a cease-fire, rather than an immediate end to the war. Other countries backed a strong text, and diplomats said they would consult their governments ahead of a vote expected later on Friday.

UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths lamented the world’s inaction.

“Such a brutal conflict has been allowed to continue and for so long — despite widespread condemnation, physical and mental toll, and massive destruction — is an indelible stain on our collective conscience,” he wrote in a post on X. The social media platform was formerly known as Twitter.

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Protected by the US, Israel has resisted international pressure to withdraw its offensive. pressing Until the destruction of the terrorist organization Hamas, which had ruled Gaza for 16 years.

The military has said months of fighting are expected in southern Gaza, home to 2.3 million people, many of whom were ordered to leave the fighting in the north during earlier stages of the war.

Since then, there have been evacuation orders Displaced civilians were forced into ever smaller areas In the south as troops focus on Gaza’s second largest city, Khan Younis. Late Thursday, the military said it was sending more ground troops, including combat engineers, to Khan Younis to target Hamas fighters above ground and in tunnels.

On Friday, the army ordered tens of thousands of residents to leave Buraj, an urban refugee camp, and surrounding communities, within territory where Israel had originally told people to leave.

The air and ground campaign also continued in the north, although Israel said it was in the final stages Destruction of Hamas militants there.

Mustafa Abu Taha, a Palestinian farm worker, said ground battles and airstrikes continued in his hard-hit Gaza City neighborhood of Shijaya, leaving many areas inaccessible due to the massive destruction caused by the airstrikes.

“They attack anything that moves,” he said of the Israeli forces.

In the Egyptian border town of Rafah, an airstrike on a house killed six people, including an infant, according to Associated Press journalists who saw the bodies at a hospital. Rafah is one of the few places in Gaza not under evacuation orders, but is targeted in Israeli attacks almost every day.

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Ministry of Health of Gaza Friday said it had documented 20,057 deaths in the fighting. It does not distinguish between combatant and civilian deaths. It previously said two-thirds of the dead were women or minors. 53,320 Palestinians were injured.

Palestinians mourn their relatives killed in an Israeli bombardment in the Gaza Strip at Rafah Hospital in southern Gaza, Thursday, December 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Fatima Shpir)

Israel blames Hamas for many of the civilian casualties Its intensive air and ground campaignCiting the group’s use of crowded residential areas for military purposes.

Israel declared war after Hamas militants crossed its border, killing 1,200 and kidnapping 240. The Israeli army said 139 soldiers were killed in the ground attack. It says it has killed thousands of Hamas fighters, including about 2,000 in the past three weeks, but it has presented no evidence to support the claim.

Meanwhile, phone and internet services were gradually restored late Thursday after a 35-hour recent communication blackout.

At a time of unprecedented humanitarian needs in Gaza, repeated cuts in communications have hampered aid delivery.

Starvation even overshadowed famines in recent years in Afghanistan and Yemen, according to Thursday’s report, which warned that the risk of famine “increases every day”. Insufficient aid inside Gaza.

Arif Hussain, chief economist at the UN’s World Food Programme, said, “It can’t get any worse. “I have never seen the scale of what is happening in Gaza. At this speed.

The war has also left Gaza’s health sector in shambles.

According to the World Health Organization, only nine of its 36 health facilities are still partially functional, all located in the south.

The agency reported rising rates of infectious diseases in Gaza, with diarrhea fivefold compared to pre-war figures, particularly among young children. It said upper respiratory infections, meningitis, skin rashes, scabies, lice and chicken pox are on the rise.

“With the health system on its knees, those facing a deadly combination of hunger and disease are left with few options,” it said.

WHO relief workers reported “unbearable” scenes in the two hospitals they visited in northern Gaza: bedridden patients with untreated wounds were crying for water, the few remaining doctors and nurses had no supplies, and bodies lined the courtyard.

Israeli forces have raided a series of health facilities in the north in recent weeks, detaining men for questioning and expelling others.

On Thursday, troops attacked the Palestinian Red Crescent’s ambulance center in the Jabaliya refugee camp, taking away paramedics and ambulance staff, the group said. On Friday, the Red Cross said the army released some paramedics, including women, but eight remained unaccounted for.


Magdy reported from Cairo.

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