Israel Warns Conflict In Gaza Will Be ‘Long War’


As the death toll continues to climb in Gaza, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that his country’s war against Hamas in the enclave will be a long one.

“Let it be clear: This will be a long war… [until] Hamas is eliminated and we restore security in both the north and the south,” Netanyahu said at a cabinet meeting Sunday.

With Israeli strikes on Gaza continuing, more than 166 Palestinians were killed in the past 24 hours taking the total Palestinian death toll to 20,424 according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry. Israel says at least eight Israeli soldiers were killed in the past day bringing to 154 the total number of soldiers killed since Israel’s ground operation started in the Gaza strip.

“This is a difficult morning, after a very difficult day of fighting in Gaza,” Netanyahu said. “The war is exacting a very heavy cost from us; however, we have no choice [but] to continue to fight.”

In northern Gaza, Israeli airstrikes pounded areas of Jabalia overnight, while in southern Gaza they struck Khan Younis, the birthplace and powerbase of Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar.

Intense fighting continued early Sunday. Israel said it has achieved almost complete operational control of northern Gaza attacking about 200 targets in Gaza over the past day.

IDF spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari had said the military is nearing complete “operational control” of northern Gaza.

“IDF troops are continuing ground operations in Khan Younis, and at the same time are preparing to expand the activity to additional areas of the Strip, with an emphasis on its south,” Hagari said.

The head of the World Health Organization Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Sunday the health system in Gaza was being destroyed and reiterated his call for a cease-fire.

“The decimation of the Gaza health system is a tragedy,” he posted on X, formerly Twitter. “We persist in calling for #CeasefireNow.”

“In the face of constant insecurity and inflows of wounded patients, we see doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers and more continue striving to save lives,” Ghebreyesus said.

As of December 20, WHO had registered 246 attacks on health care in Gaza, including hospitals and ambulances, resulting in 582 deaths and 748 injuries.

Ghebreyesus hailed Gaza’s medical workers who continue their work under increasingly dire circumstances.

Hospitals, protected under international humanitarian law, have repeatedly been hit by Israeli strikes since the war erupted.

Of Gaza’s original 36 hospitals, only nine are now partially functional, all of them in the south and all of them overwhelmed.

WHO staff described “unbearable” scenes in two badly damaged hospitals in the north, Shifa and Al-Ahli, where largely abandoned patients, including young children, beg for food and water.

The Israeli military accuses Hamas of having tunnels under hospitals and using the medical facilities as command centers, a charge denied by the Islamist group.

Vast areas of Gaza lie in ruins and its 2.3 million people, most of them displaced, have endured dire shortages of water, food, fuel and medicine due to an Israeli siege, alleviated only by the limited arrival of aid trucks.

Demonstrations calling for a cease-fire in Gaza were mounted around the world over the weekend. London, New York, Istanbul and Sanaa were among the locations where rallies were held.

Hamas militants poured into the Gaza border on October 7 and attacked southern Israeli communities, killing about 1,200 people, according to Israel. The group, designated a terrorist group by the U.S. and others, also seized around 240 hostages, of whom 129 remain in Gaza.

In response, Israel vowed to crush Hamas and launched an air, land and sea offensive on Gaza.

Israel said Hamas is to blame for the high civilian death toll, citing its use of crowded residential areas and tunnels. Israel has launched thousands of airstrikes since the October 7 terror attack

On Saturday, U.S. President Joe Biden spoke to Netanyahu about Israel’s military campaign in Gaza, the White House said.

“I did not ask for a cease-fire,” Biden told reporters as he left Washington for Camp David. He called the conversation long and private.

According to a White House statement, Biden emphasized to Netanyahu “the critical need to protect the civilian population including those supporting the humanitarian aid operation, and the importance of allowing civilians to move safely away from areas of ongoing fighting.”

They also discussed the need to free the remaining hostages held by Hamas.

Netanyahu’s office later said the prime minister “made clear that Israel would continue the war until achieving all its goals.”


The VOA is the Voice of America

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