Jerusalem — Despite mounting pressure, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has flatly rejected calls for a cease-fire in his country’s, refusing to accept even a vaguely defined humanitarian “pause” in the fighting, which the U.S. has called for, unless and until Hamas frees the more than 240 hostages it’s said to be holding in the Gaza Strip.
The relentless airstrikes Israel launched immediately afteron southern Israel on Oct. 7 have only intensified since Israeli ground forces pushed into the densely populated Palestinian territory. Israel was shocked by the scope of the attack, during which it says Hamas fighters killed more than 1,400 people.
Night after night the bombs have continued to rain down on Gaza in response, including a barrage of some 450 strikes over the last 24 hours, according to the Israel Defence Forces (IDF). The IDF said over the weekend that it had surrounded Gaza City, the decimated metropolis from which Hamas has ruled the strip for almost 20 years, and there were reports that troops could enter the city — under which Hamas has— within 48 hours.
But around the world people are recoiling in horror at the staggering civilian death toll and calls for a cease-fire are getting louder not only from within the Palestinian territories, but in capital cities around the world, and at the United Nations.
In a sign of the increasing anger over the extent of civilian deaths in Gaza, South Africa’s government announced Monday that it would withdraw all of its diplomats from Tel Aviv “for consultation.”
America’s top diplomat, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, continued his frantic shuttle diplomacy around the Middle East on Monday after a visit the previous day with President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, based in the city of Ramallah in the larger, Israeli-occupied Palestinian territory of the West Bank.
On the streets of Ramallah, the Blinken’s visit was met with fast-rising anger at the United States for supporting Israel’s offensive, with which Netanyahu has vowed to “destroy Hamas.” As the Hamas-run Ministry of Health in Gaza says more than 9,000 people have been killed by Israel’s bombardment, however, crowds in Ramallah chanted that Blinken had Palestinian blood on his hands.
The United Nations estimates that 1.5 million Palestinians have been internally displaced in Gaza, with many civilians trying to heed the Israeli military’s repeated warnings to flee to the southern part of the enclave. But the journey to the south can be just as perilous.
People are so terrified of being caught in the crossfire that everyone, young and old, walk with their hands held up in the air, according to one Palestinian man who was making the trek south.
“We saw bodies just lying around, many of them decomposing,” he screamed. “Please, have mercy on us!”
But mercy is in short supply in Gaza, where packed ambulances continue to pull up outside overcrowded and under-resourced hospitals every day.
The U.N.’s World health Organization says more than a third of Gaza’s 35 hospitals are not functioning at all, and those still in service are facing dire fuel shortages. Still, medical staff rush to do the best they can to care for the thousands of wounded, children and others, who find themselves caught in the middle of this war.