Israel begins new year under rockets barrage as army pounds Gaza


“WE LIVE LIKE ANIMALS”

In the besieged Gaza Strip, where the UN says 85 per cent of the population has been displaced, 20-year-old Hamdan Abu Arab said he hoped “2024 will be better”.

“Just a while ago, I was talking to my friends, and we remembered how … we used to go out and enjoy our time on the last day of the year. But this New Year’s Eve, there are only missiles and the remains of people,” he said.

Since Israel imposed a siege at the outset of the war, Gazans have been facing dire shortages of food, fuel, water and medicine.

UN chief Antonio Guterres has condemned the “epic human suffering” and “collective punishment” of Palestinian civilians, while the WHO has warned of the risk of infectious disease.

“We are exhausted … We were displaced five times during this war,” said 29-year-old Bassam Hana.

“We hope things improve in 2024 and that we live just like any other human being. Currently, we live like animals.”

At least 48 Palestinians were killed in strikes on Gaza City over the weekend, the territory’s health ministry said, with many still buried under the rubble.

“After the explosion we arrived at the scene of the strike and saw martyrs everywhere,” said one resident after a building was hit.

“Children are still missing, we can’t find them.”

In his nightly briefing on Sunday, Israeli army spokesman Daniel Hagari said several militants “were killed and subdued during the battles in Khan Yunis” earlier in the day.

“We are continuing to handle the underground tunnels and to strike the rocket launching array, in order to reduce rocket fire into the State of Israel.

“Dozens of aircrafts are in the skies of Gaza at any given moment,” he said.

REGIONAL FEARS

International mediators have continued efforts toward a new pause in fighting.

A Hamas delegation from Qatar visited Cairo on Friday to discuss an Egyptian three-phase plan proposing renewable ceasefires, a staggered release of hostages for Palestinian prisoners, and ultimately an end to the war, sources close to Hamas said.

Their allies Islamic Jihad said on Saturday that Palestinian factions were “in the process” of evaluating the proposal and would give a response “within days”.

The war in Gaza has raised fears of a broader regional conflict, with hostilities flaring with mostly Iran-backed militant groups in nearby countries who say they are acting in support of Hamas.

The Israeli army announced Sunday night having intercepted two “hostile aircraft” launched from Syria towards northern Israel. Earlier it had reported launches toward Israeli territory originating in Lebanon.

“Throughout the day, IDF (military) tanks and helicopters targeted three terrorist squads operating in Lebanon,” the army said in a statement.

And in the Red Sea, the US military said Sunday that Navy helicopters had fired at Iran-backed Huthi rebel boats off Yemen that were attacking a cargo ship, with Yemeni sources reporting 10 rebels killed.



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