Gaza war: Israeli attacks, sieges continue as UN chief decries 'horror and starvation'

Gaza war: Israeli attacks, sieges continue as UN chief decries 'horror and starvation'
Antonio Guterres has urged an end to the 'non-stop nightmare' in The Gaza Strip, as Israel continued to attack hospitals and residential areas
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Gazans have endured death, destruction and food shortages as a result of Israel's indiscriminate assault [Getty/file photo]

Israel continued its deadly attacks in Gaza on Sunday, vowing to push on with a ground invasion of the territory's far south despite US objections and truce talks.

UN chief Antonio Guterres said "horror and starvation stalk the people of Gaza" and urged an immediate ceasefire in the battered and besieged territory.

The health ministry in the Gaza Strip said another 84 people had been killed over the past 24 hours, raising the total death toll in the nearly six-month-old war to 32,226.

Israel has besieged the Al Shifa Medical Complex, which has been a refuge for patients and displaced people. for almost a week. Scores of people have been killed, injured or detained, including medical staff and journalists.

Israel also launched more than 60 airstrikes as well as artillery bombardment of Gaza City, the southern urban centre of Khan Younis and other areas.

In Rafah in the far south of the Gaza Strip, local resident Hassan Zanoun looked sadly at the remains of his building, reduced to a jumble of broken concrete and rubble by an airstrike.

"My children and I were sleeping here," he told AFP. "I was surprised, we didn't hear the sound of a rocket and suddenly everything was unleashed over our heads, strikes, screams.

"I got out from under the rubble, and my daughters got out from under the rubble too. What more can I say? Our neighbours are injured, we too are injured, the houses have collapsed over our heads."

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Israel has faced ever greater global scrutiny and opposition to its military campaign as Palestinian civilian deaths have soared and its siege has brought widespread malnutrition and hunger, as well as concerns over the outbreak of hygiene-related diseases.

Guterres urged an end to the "non-stop nightmare" endured by Gaza's 2.4 million people in a visit on Saturday to the Egyptian border with the coastal territory.

He said "nothing justifies" either Hamas's surprise October 7 attack on Israel or the "collective punishment" of Palestinians, and demanded Israel allow vastly more aid into Gaza.

Writing on social media platform X, he said "horror and starvation stalk the people of Gaza. Any further onslaught will make everything worse. Worse for Palestinian civilians, for the hostages, for all people of the region.

"It's more than time for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire & the immediate release of all hostages."

US-Israel tensions

Tensions have grown between Israel and its traditional top ally the United States, which has called for greater efforts to alleviate the humanitarian crisis.

The main flashpoint is Israel's plan to push its ground invasion into Rafah city on the Egyptian border, where some 1.5 million Palestinians - mostly displaced - are living, mostly in overcrowded and unsanitary shelters.

Washington has made clear it would not support an Israeli attack on Rafah without a plan to protect civilians there.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has warned that "a major ground operation there would mean more civilian deaths, it would worsen the humanitarian crisis".

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has claimed that "we have no way to defeat Hamas without getting into Rafah and eliminating the battalions that are left there".

Netanyahu added he had told Blinken that "I hope to do that with the support of the United States, but if we need to, we will do it alone".

Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant was to head to Washington Sunday to discuss the war with Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin and other senior US defence officials.

Hospital battle

US intelligence chief Bill Burns and his Israeli counterpart David Barnea departed Doha late on Saturday following talks on a temporary truce in Gaza and a hostage exchange, a source briefed on the talks told AFP.

The latest negotiations "focused on details and a ratio for the exchange of hostages and prisoners", the source said, adding that technical teams remained in Qatar.

A major sticking point has been Hamas's position that a temporary truce must lead to a permanent Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and end to the war, a condition Israel has repeatedly rejected.

A Hamas official with knowledge of the talks said on Saturday that "there is a deep divergence in positions in the negotiations" in Doha.

The official said Israel "refuses to agree on a comprehensive ceasefire and refuses the complete withdrawal of its forces from Gaza".

Deadly fighting meanwhile rocked Gaza, where authorities reported that Israeli tank fire and shells killed 21 people on Saturday at an aid distribution point on the outskirts of Gaza City.

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Israeli forces also pressed on with their offensive in and around the Al Shifa hospital complex.

The UN humanitarian office OCHA said "health workers have been among those reported arrested and detained".

The media office in Gaza said 190 people had been killed in the Israeli attacks, and 30 nearby buildings destroyed.