Israel revises down death toll as deadly strikes hit Gaza facilities
10 November 2023
Gaza Strip (Palestinian Territories) (AFP) -
Israel on Friday revised down the death toll of last month's Hamas attacks to about 1,200 as it pursued its assault on Gaza despite new calls for a halt to the bombing of civilians.
Palestinians reported deadly strikes or sniper fire at two hospitals and a school.
The Israeli army, which has agreed to some pauses in shelling to allow civilians to flee northern Gaza, has accused Palestinian militant group Hamas of using hospitals as command centres and hideouts. Hamas denies the accusations.
The director of the Al-Shifa hospital and the Hamas government said 13 people were killed in a strike on the institution, which they blamed on Israeli forces.
The bodies of another 50 people killed in a strike on Gaza City's Al-Buraq school were taken to the hospital, the Al-Shifa director said.
The Palestinian Red Crescent Society said Israeli snipers had shot at Al-Quds hospital, killing at least one person.
AFP could not immediately confirm the tolls.
Israeli forces would 'kill' Hamas militants if they saw them 'firing from hospitals', military spokesman Richard Hecht said.
- 'Point of no return' -
Heavy fighting raged near Al-Shifa, with Israel saying it had killed dozens of militants and destroyed tunnels that are key to Hamas's capacity to fight.
Israel launched an offensive in Gaza after Hamas fighters poured across the border on October 7, killing 1,200 people and taking 239 people hostage, according to Israeli officials.
Israel gave what the foreign ministry called an 'updated estimate' revised down from over 1,400 dead.
Vowing to destroy Hamas, Israel has launched an air and ground campaign that the Hamas health ministry says has killed more than 11,000 people, mostly civilians and many of them children.
Amid the fighting, the Gazan health system was 'on its knees', the head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, told the UN Security Council.
'Overstretched, running on thin supplies and increasingly unsafe, the healthcare system in Gaza has reached a point of no return,' the International Committee of the Red Cross said.
In Israel, medical services reported two women were wounded in rocket attacks in Tel Aviv. Hamas's military wing said it had targeted the Israeli commercial hub.
- 'No safe place' -
The war in the densely populated coastal territory, which is effectively sealed off, has prompted repeated calls for a ceasefire to protect civilian lives and allow in more humanitarian aid.
Tens of thousands of people have fled to the south of the territory in recent days, often on foot and taking only the things they could carry.
Almost 1.6 million people have been internally displaced since October 7, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) said -- nearly two thirds of Gaza's population.
But the UN estimates tens of thousands of civilians remain in the fiercest battle zones in the north.
The United Nations called for an end to the 'carnage' in Gaza, saying 'razing entire neighbourhoods to the ground is not an answer for the egregious crimes committed by Hamas'.
'To the contrary, it is creating a new generation of aggrieved Palestinians who are likely to continue the cycle of violence,' UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini wrote in an opinion piece.
French President Emmanuel Macron made a strong call for Israel to halt the bombing of Gaza civilians, saying there was 'no justification' and the deaths were causing 'resentment' across the Middle East.
In an interview with the BBC, Macron said Israel had the right to protect itself after the October 7 attacks, but he added: 'These babies, these ladies, these old people are bombed and killed.
'So there is no reason for that and no legitimacy. So we do urge Israel to stop.'
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly rejected halting the fighting, telling Fox News on Thursday that a 'ceasefire with Hamas means surrender to Hamas, surrender to terror'.
He also said Israel does not 'seek to govern Gaza' in the long run.
'We don't seek to occupy it, but we seek to give it and us a better future,' he told the US broadcaster.
- Hostages -
Complicating Israel's military push is the fate of the hostages abducted on October 7.
CIA director Bill Burns and David Barnea, head of Israel's Mossad spy agency, were in Doha for talks on pauses in fighting alongside hostage releases and more aid for Gaza, an official told AFP on Thursday.
Four hostages have been freed so far by Hamas and another rescued in an Israeli operation. The desperate relatives of those still held in Gaza have piled pressure on Israeli and US authorities to secure the release of their loved ones.
The conflict has also stoked regional tensions, with cross-border exchanges between the Israeli army and Lebanon's Hezbollah. Yemen's Iran-backed Huthi rebels say they have launched 'ballistic missiles' at southern Israel.
Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said the expansion of the Israel-Hamas war has become 'inevitable'.
Iran, which supports Hamas financially and militarily, has hailed the militant group's attack on Israel as a 'success' but denied any involvement.
Saudi Arabia is hosting Arab leaders and Iran's president for two summits this weekend in emergency meetings of the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken wrapped up a marathon diplomatic push Friday, saying Israel's pauses in its Gaza offensive would 'save lives' but more was needed.
'Far too many Palestinians have been killed,' Blinken said in New Delhi, his last stop before heading home. He repeated US support for ally Israel but was firm that more aid had to reach civilians in Gaza.