Scores Of Dead, Injured After Israel-Hamas Truce Collapses

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Israeli warplanes pounded the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip on Friday after talks to extend a week-old truce collapsed at daybreak. The Gaza health ministry reported that 178 Palestinians were killed and 589 others were injured.

Israel’s military said its ground, air and naval forces had struck more than 200 of what it called “terror targets” in the enclave since the end of the truce.

Khan Younis in southern Gaza was heavily bombarded, sending residents fleeing for shelter further west, according to Reuters journalists there.

The U.N. said the fighting would exacerbate an acute humanitarian emergency. “Hell on Earth has returned to Gaza,” said Jens Laerke, spokesperson for the U.N. humanitarian office in Geneva.

UNICEF spokesperson James Elder excoriated the impact of Israel’s renewed attacks on Gaza civilians, especially on children. “Today those in power decided that the killing of children would recommence in Gaza,” he said via video link from Rafah, Gaza. He called the conflict a “war on children.”

Elder stressed the “dire” lack of nutrition, water and sanitation in Gaza and pleaded for a lasting cease-fire. He said the alternative is unthinkable for people already living in a nightmare. “Inaction, at its core, is an approval of the killing of children,” he said.

Israel plans Gaza DMZ 

Meanwhile, Israel has presented some of its neighboring states with plans to carve out a buffer zone on the Palestinian side of Gaza’s border with Israel to avert future attacks after the war ends, Egyptian and regional sources said according to Reuters.

Israel has communicated its post-war plans to Egypt and Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Turkey as part of its future security goals for Gaza, sources told the news agency.

Ophir Falk, foreign policy adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told Reuters the Israeli government has a three-tiered plan for post-war Gaza: destroying Hamas, demilitarizing Gaza and de-radicalizing the enclave.

“A buffer zone may be part of the demilitarization process,” Falk said, although he did not say whether these plans had been shared with international partners, including Arab states.

Arab states have dismissed as impossible Israel’s goal of wiping out Hamas, a U.S.-designated terror group, saying it was more than simply a militant force that could be defeated.

World reaction

Israel and Hamas have blamed each other for the breakdown of the negotiations, although the White House singled out Hamas, noting it had failed to produce a new list of hostages to release as required for an extension of the truce.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan told his Emirati counterpart Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan on the sidelines of the COP28 summit in Dubai that the resumption of Israeli attacks on Gaza was “very negative,” Erdogan’s office said Friday.

Turkey said in a statement that it was working to achieve a lasting cease-fire, doing its best to stop Israel’s “massacre,” but that the Muslim world needed to act in unison.

“While discussing the climate crisis, we cannot ignore the humanitarian crisis unfolding in the Palestinian territories right beside us,” Erdogan told leaders during his formal speech to the COP28 conference.

“The current situation in Gaza constitutes a war crime and a crime against humanity; those responsible must be held accountable under international law,” he said.

Erdogan’s comments were echoed by South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa and Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman al-Thani.

“Continuous bombardment of Gaza complicates mediation efforts and exacerbates humanitarian catastrophe,” the Qatari minister said.

Egypt also is exerting the utmost effort with its partners to reinstate the truce in Gaza as soon as possible, according to a statement from Diaa Rashwan, the head of Egypt’s State Information Service.

However, Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Hamas understands only force “and therefore we will continue to act until we achieve the goals of the war.” He spoke while riding in one of Israel’s warplanes to observe the assault. “The results are impressive,” he said.

At a pro-Israel conference in the U.S. city of Denver, Colorado, the Israeli ambassador to the U.N., Gilad Erdan, said, “We are in a fight for Israel’s very future, for the survival of the Jewish state.”

He continued: “We are in a fight against pure evil, sheer evil, evil that whether it calls itself Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah, ISIS or al-Qaida shares the same hegemonic goal of spreading its radical ideology and defeating Western civilization through barbaric terror and violence.”

Colorado Governor Jared Polis said, “There’s a lot of pain. It’s made worse by the fact that we are seeing the rise of antisemitism and hate in America, across the world, the antisemitic demons of old that we all hoped had been vanquished now fueled by social media being used to amplify dangerous rhetoric and misinformation.”

In Washington, pro-Palestinian demonstrators held a prayer vigil and rally outside the Embassy of Israel.

Hostage release

The return to fighting comes after a seven-day truce that allowed for the release of Israeli hostages seized by Hamas during its October 7 terror attack in exchange for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

On Thursday, Hamas released eight Israeli hostages under an extension of a truce, and a short time later Israel released 30 Palestinian prisoners as negotiators tried to again extend the pause in fighting.

Two women were released in the afternoon and six more were released shortly before midnight. It was the seventh group of hostages released under the temporary truce deal between Hamas and Israel.

Israel initially required the militant group to release at least 10 hostages daily for the truce to continue, but a Qatari Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson said that no additional hostages would be released on Thursday. Qatar helped broker the truce.

The Qatari spokesperson said Israel accepted the eight hostages because Hamas on Wednesday had released an extra two hostages, both Israeli-Russian women.

Hamas had indicated that it could free two more Israeli-Russian citizens, but the militant group ultimately did not do so. Hamas had also previously said it would release the bodies of three Israeli hostages on Thursday, but it is unclear whether that occurred.

In turn, Israel released 30 Palestinians from prisons in Israel.

To date, Hamas has released 105 hostages and Israel has released 240 Palestinian prisoners. Hamas has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States, Britain, the European Union and others.

VOA

The VOA is the Voice of America

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