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Israel-Hamas war: Over 29,000 Palestinians killed in Gaza as Netanyahu vows 'total victory'

The Health Ministry in Gaza 107 bodies were brought in the last 24 hours, bringing the death count of Palestinians to 29,092. Israel's offensive has driven most of the population homeless and triggered a humanitarian catastrophe with low food and water and medical services severely disrupted.

Aveek Banerjee Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Gaza Published on: February 19, 2024 17:48 IST
Israel hamas war, Palestinians killed
Image Source : AP Israel's offensive has flattened most of the Gaza Strip.

Gaza: In another grim milestone in the decades-long history of the Israel-Palestine conflict, more than 29,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since the start of the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, the enclave's Health Ministry said on Monday. Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to continue the offensive until “total victory” against Hamas, raising fears that troops will soon move into the southernmost town of Rafah on the Egyptian border.

The Health Ministry said 107 bodies were brought to hospitals in the last 24 hours. That brings the total number of fatalities to 29,092 since the start of the war, about two-thirds of them being women and children. The war began when Hamas-led militants stormed into southern Israel from Gaza on October 7, killing some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking around 250 hostages.

Israel says it has killed over 10,000 Palestinian militants, without providing evidence. The military says it tries to avoid harming civilians and blames the high death toll on Hamas because the militant group fights in dense residential neighbourhoods. The military says 236 of its soldiers have been killed since the start of the ground offensive in late October.

The war, which shows no sign of ending, has driven around 80 per cent of the Palestinians in Gaza from their homes and has left a quarter of the population starving, according to UN officials. Benny Gantz, a retired general and a member of Netanyahu's three-man War Cabinet, on Sunday, warned that the offensive would expand to Rafah if the hostages are not freed by the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which is expected to begin around March 10. 

Israel has said it is developing plans to evacuate civilians from Rafah, but it's not clear where they would go in the devastated territory, large areas of which have been flattened. Egypt has sealed the border and warned that any mass influx of Palestinians could threaten its decades-old peace treaty with Israel.

Israel rebukes Brazil President's comparison with Holocaust

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Sunday accused Israel of committing 'genocide' in Gaza, comparing its actions to the Holocaust in Nazi Germany during the time of World War II. Lula's comments struck a raw nerve in Israel, a country established as a haven for Jews in the wake of the Holocaust, where millions of Jewish people were killed under Adolf Hitler's regime.

Speaking to reporters at the African Union summit in Ethiopia, Lula said, "What is happening in the Gaza Strip with the Palestinian people has no parallel in other historical moments. In fact, it did exist when Hitler decided to kill the Jews". His comments came after leaders at the summit condemned Israel's offensive in Gaza and called for its immediate end.

 Netanyahu condemned Lula's remarks, accusing him of being anti-semitic and trivialising the Nazi genocide of European Jews during World War II. "By comparing Israel's war in Gaza against Hamas, a genocidal terrorist organization, to the Holocaust, President da Silva has disgraced the memory of the 6 million Jews murdered by the Nazis and demonized the Jewish state like the most virulent anti-Semite. He should be ashamed of himself," he said in a statement.

Foreign Minister Israel Katz wrote on X that he had summoned Brazil's ambassador to Israel for a reprimand, calling Lula's comments “shameful and serious". The Brazilian Israelite Confederation said Lula's remarks were a "perverse distortion of reality" and "offend the memory of Holocaust victims and their descendants" and accused his government of an "extreme and unbalanced" stance on the conflict.

Israel vows to "finish the job"

Earlier on Sunday, Netanyahu brushed off growing calls to halt the military offensive in Gaza, vowing to “finish the job” as Gantz set the Ramadan deadline for an invasion in Rafah. As cease-fire negotiations struggle after signs of progress in recent weeks, Netanyahu has called demands by Gaza’s ruling Hamas militant group "delusional". The United States, Israel’s top ally, says it still hopes to broker a cease-fire and hostage-release agreement and envisions a wider resolution of the war sparked by the October 7 attack in southern Israel.

The US also says it will veto another draft UN resolution calling for a cease-fire, with its UN ambassador warning against measures that could jeopardise "the opportunity for an enduring resolution of hostilities". However, the US and Israel disagree on Palestinian statehood, which Washington believes is key to bringing peace in the conflict-ridden region and normalisation of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia.

The international community overwhelmingly supports an independent Palestinian state as part of a future peace agreement. Netanyahu’s government is filled with hard-liners who oppose Palestinian independence. Netanyahu wants Israel to achieve “total victory” over Hamas as concerns rise over a possible operation in Rafah, where most of the people are crammed in to escape the fighting.

(with inputs from AP)

ALSO READ | Brazilian President compares Israel's offensive in Gaza to Holocaust, Netanyahu responds

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