Gaza on brink: UN accuses Israel of 'violations of humanitarian law'

Gaza on the brink: ‘700 Palestinians are killed in 24 hours’, hospitals say they are ceasing to function and UN accuses Israel of ‘clear violations of humanitarian law’ as bombardment escalates ahead of expected ground invasion to eliminate Hamas

  • Almost 5,800 Palestinians have been killed since the Hamas attack on October 7 

As many as 700 Palestinians have been killed in just 24 hours, Gaza’s health ministry has said, as the enclave’s hospitals cease to function.

The UN on Tuesday accused Israel of ‘clear violations of humanitarian law’ in the latest increase in tensions, as the region sits on the brink of an all-out ground war.

Almost 5,800 people in the besieged Gaza Strip are now said to have died since the terror group Hamas launched a lethal assault into Israel on October 7, as the nation continues its fierce retaliation ahead of an expected ground invasion of the strip.

The UN, the United States and Canada appealed on Tuesday for a humanitarian pause in the Israel-Hamas war to allow safe deliveries of aid to civilians short of food, water, medicine and electricity. 

Scotland’s First Minister Hamza Yousaf also called for an immediate ceasefire, increasing pressure on the UK government to take a stronger stance.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres alleged violations of international law in Gaza and urged an immediate ceasefire as Israel pounds the Palestinian territory in response to Hamas attacks, with the crisis deeply dividing the Security Council.

Israel voiced anger over the UN chief’s plea before a high-level session of the council, where the Palestinian foreign minister in turn denounced what he described as inaction in the conflict that has killed thousands on both sides, mostly civilians.

Almost 5,800 people in the besieged Gaza Strip are now said to have died since the terror group Hamas launched a lethal assault into Israel on October 7

Children being treated for injuries sustained in Hamas airstrikes comfort one another at a hospital in Palestine

Palestinian civilians rush into hospitals in Gaza which still have power on Tuesday

The world is holding its breath amid border clashes with Lebanon and missile strikes on Syria, raising fears of a wider Middle East conflict.

It comes as UN agencies have described begging ‘on their knees’ to be allowed entry to deliver aid into the Gaza Strip, which has been under constant bombardment since the Hamas assault earlier this month.

Their incursion into Israeli territory on October 7 killed at least 1,400 Israelis, the majority of whom were civilians, as militants kidnapped more than 200 people. 

Graphic descriptions and videos of atrocities including the beheading of children, mutilation of bodies and slaughtering of entire families in their own beds have been emerging from the nation ever since.

Israel responded by cutting off all food, water, electricity and aid into Gaza for its 2.3 million people, before later allowing water back into the region.

In recent days, the first aid convoys have been allowed to cross the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza to deliver vital supplies, but those on the ground say the current trickle of aid is nowhere near enough.

Eight trucks containing water, food and medicine entered the Gaza Strip from Egypt late on Tuesday, the Palestinian Red Crescent said. 

Hamas officials say that more than 40 medical centres have so far had to halt operations due to a lack of power leaving them unable to treat the injured. They added that among the dead are 2,360 children.

Doctors in Gaza say patients arriving at hospitals are showing signs of disease caused by overcrowding and poor sanitation after more than 1.4 million people fled their homes for temporary shelters under Israel’s heaviest-ever bombardment. 

Overnight the Israeli military said that it killed dozens of Hamas fighters overnight while hitting over 400 Hamas targets, but that it would take time to destroy the Islamist militant group.

Two children injured in an Israeli airstrike are rushed into Nasser Medical Hospital on Tuesday night

Palestinians search through rubble for survivors after 704 people were confirmed to have died in just 24 hours

In recent days, the first aid convoys have been allowed to cross the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza to deliver vital supplies, but those on the ground say the current trickle of aid is nowhere near enough

Palestinians mourn relatives killed by Israeli airstrikes late on Tuesday

Rescuers pull an injured child out of rubble  in Khan Yunis in the Gaza Strip

Israeli infantry soldiers stand guard by fields on the outskirts of Yad Mordechai along the Gaza Strip border

Israel’s Foreign Affairs Minister Eli Cohen speaks during a meeting of the Security Council on Tuesday

Smoke rises above Gaza after continued airstrikes overnight on Tuesday

Opening Tuesday’s UN Security Council session, Guterres said there was no excuse for the ‘appalling’ violence by Hamas militants on October 7 but also warned against ‘collective punishment’ of the Palestinians.

READ MORE: The hand of peace from Israeli hostage, 85, who ‘went through hell’ for 16 days that shames Hamas killers 

‘I am deeply concerned about the clear violations of international humanitarian law that we are witnessing in Gaza. Let me be clear: No party to an armed conflict is above international humanitarian law,’ Guterres said, without explicitly naming Israel.

His remarks infuriated Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen who, pointing his finger at Guterres and raising his voice, recounted graphic accounts of civilians including young children killed in the deadliest single attack in Israeli history as he slammed calls for a ‘proportionate’ response.

‘Tell me, what is a proportionate response for killing of babies, for rape (of) women and burn them, for beheading a child?’ Cohen asked. ‘How can you agree to a cease-fire with someone who swore to kill and destroy your own existence?’

He told the UN Security Council that the proportionate response to the Oct. 7 massacre is ‘a total destruction to the last one of the Hamas,’ calling the extremist group ‘the new Nazis.’ He stressed: ‘It is not only Israel’s right to destroy Hamas. It’s our duty.’

‘Mr Secretary-General, in what world do you live?’ Cohen added. 

Children are treated on the floor of a Gaza hospital as Hamas officials say 40 medical centres have already closed due to running out of power

UN peacekeepers patrol in Lebanon after clashes broke out between Hezbollah militants and the Israeli military

Netanyahu said Israel would try to protect civilians as it worked to ensure they ‘will no longer live under Hamas tyranny’ (Pictured: Civilians in Gaza mourn the loss of loved ones)

Airstrike damage at a petrol station hit in Khan Yunis, Gaza

A family clutch possessions as they sit at the wreckage of their destroyed home

Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron, visiting Israel on Tuesday, told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that France stood ‘shoulder to shoulder’ with Israel in its war with Hamas but that it must not fight ‘without rules’.

Netanyahu said Israel would try to protect civilians as it worked to ensure they ‘will no longer live under Hamas tyranny’.

There appeared to be little prospect of a ceasefire any time soon in the bloodiest chapter of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for decades, with civilian suffering spreading.

After an air strike in Khan Younis in southern Gaza, Abdallah Tabash held his dead daughter Sidra, refusing to let go as he held her bloodstained face and hair. ‘I want to look at her as much as I can,’ he said.

Israeli tanks and troops are massed on the border between Israel and Gaza awaiting orders for an expected ground invasion. 

It is an operation that will be complicated by fears for the hostages’ welfare and by militants heavily armed by Iran dug into a crowded urban setting using a vast network of tunnels.

Hamas has so far released four hostages, including 85-year-old Yocheved Lifshitz, whose husband is still missing.

Her British daughter, Sharone Lifshitz, 52, from London, was one of the first to praise her mother after it was revealed Ms Lifshitz shook the hand of her Hamas guard seconds before being handed over to the International Red Cross.

Ms Lifschitz said she was beaten by militants as she was abducted and had difficulty breathing. ‘They stormed into our homes. They beat people. They kidnapped others, the old and the young without distinction,’ she said, seated in a wheelchair and speaking in barely a whisper to reporters outside a Tel Aviv hospital.

‘I’ve been through hell,’ she said.

Inside Gaza, a group of hostages were led into what Ms Lifshitz called a ‘spider’s web’ of damp tunnels and eventually reached a large hall where, under 24-hour guard, a doctor visited every other day and brought them medicines they needed.

In the early hours of Wednesday morning Israel’s military said its jets struck Syrian army infrastructure and mortar launchers, stating this was in response to rocket launches from Syria towards Israel.

The military did not provide further details. It did not accuse Syria’s army of firing the two rockets, which set off air raid sirens in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights on Tuesday.

There was no immediate comment from Syria.

Israel has traded fire with Lebanon’s Hezbollah and militants in Syria in recent days, a wider conflict over its northern border as it battles Islamist Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip following a deadly attack in Israel.

Deadly clashes have intensified between the Israeli military and Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, and resurged between Israel and Lebanon’s Iran-backed, heavily armed Hezbollah group along the Israeli-Lebanon border. 

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