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No let-up in Gaza war despite UN ceasefire resolution

Palestinian Territories | March 26, 2024, Tuesday @ 07:07 in World » GENERAL | By: AFP | Views: 1991
No let-up in Gaza war despite UN ceasefire resolution

Youths watch from afar as people search the rubble of destroyed buildings in the Asra residential compound, northwest of Nuseirat in the Gaza Strip, on March 25, 2024 amid the ongoing conflict in the Palestinian territory between Israel and the militant group Hamas. (Photo by AFP)

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Israeli troops battled Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, with no sign of a let-up in the war despite a UN Security Council resolution demanding an "immediate ceasefire".

The resolution was adopted Monday after Israel's closest ally the United States abstained.

It demands an "immediate ceasefire" for the ongoing Muslim holy month of Ramadan, leading to a "lasting" truce.

It also demands that Hamas and other militants free hostages they took during the unprecedented October 7 attacks on Israel, though it does not directly link the release to a truce.

After the vote, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres led calls for the resolution to be implemented.

"Failure would be unforgivable," he wrote on social media platform X.

Israel reacted furiously to the US abstention, as it allowed the resolution to go through with all the other 14 Security Council members voting yes.

The resolution is the first since the Gaza war erupted to demand an immediate halt in the fighting.

Washington insisted that its abstention, which followed numerous vetoes, did not mark a shift in policy, although it has taken an increasingly tougher line with Israel in recent weeks.

The war began with Hamas's October 7 attacks, which resulted in about 1,160 deaths in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.

Militants also seized about 250 hostages, of whom Israel believes around 130 are still held in Gaza, including 33 presumed dead.

Vowing to destroy Hamas and free the captives, Israel has carried out a relentless bombardment and ground invasion of the coastal territory.

The health ministry in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip on Monday put the Palestinian death toll at 32,333, most of them women and children.

Hamas welcomed the Security Council resolution and reaffirmed its readiness to negotiate the release of hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

- 'Clear retreat' -

Israel has consistently defended its campaign despite mounting international criticism of its conduct.

Enraged by the United States' abstention, it cancelled the visit of a delegation to Washington.

It said that the abstention "hurts" both its war effort and attempts to release hostages, while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office described it as "a clear retreat from the consistent position of the US".

On the ground, the fighting raged on unabated.

In southern Gaza's Rafah, a key flashpoint in the war, witnesses said Israeli jets pummelled the city on Tuesday.

According to the Israeli army, anti-rocket sirens sounded in Israeli areas around the Gaza Strip.

While Rafah, like other areas around the Gaza Strip, has come under frequent Israeli strikes, it is the only part of the territory where Israel has not sent in ground troops.

It borders Egypt, and 1.5 million Palestinians fleeing the rest of the devastated territory have sought refuge there.

Netanyahu's determination to launch a ground operation in Rafah, the city on Gaza's southern border where most of the territory's population is sheltering, has become a key point of contention between Israel and the United States.

- 'Obscene distortion' -

In Rafah, Palestinians welcomed the UN vote and called for the United States to use its influence on Israel to secure a ceasefire.

Bilal Awad, 63, said Washington must "stand against an attack on Rafah, and support the return of the displaced to their cities".

Ihab al-Assar, 60, expressed hope that "Israel will comply" with the Security Council.

Israel has labelled its operations "precise operational activities" and said it has taken care to avoid harm to civilians, but aid agencies have voiced alarm about non-combatants caught up in the fighting.

Elsewhere in the Gaza Strip, the Israeli military said Monday it was battling militants around two hospitals and reported killing about 20 fighters around Al-Amal over the previous day in close-quarters combat and air strikes.

Palestinians living near Al-Shifa, the territory's main hospital, have reported corpses in the streets, constant bombardment and the rounding up of men who are stripped to their underwear and questioned.

Israel's military said it had detained a total of about 500 militants "affiliated with" Hamas and Islamic Jihad, another militant group, during its operation at Al-Shifa.

The fighting came as an independent UN-appointed expert, Francesca Albanese, said there were "reasonable grounds to believe" Israel's actions in Gaza had met the threshold for "acts of genocide".

Israel rejected Albanese's report, due to be presented to the UN's Human Rights Council on Tuesday, as an "obscene inversion of reality".

© Agence France-Presse

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