Israel-Gaza war: UN chief condemns Israel for ‘heartbreaking’ deaths, with over 25,000 dead in Gaza

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Sunday denounced Israel for the “heartbreaking” deaths of Palestinian civilians in Gaza and called it unacceptable to resist statehood for the Palestinian people.

“Israel’s military operations have spread mass destruction and killed civilians on a scale unprecedented during my time as secretary-general,” Guterres said at the opening of a summit of the G77+China in the Ugandan capital Kampala.

“This is heartbreaking and utterly unacceptable. The Middle East is a tinderbox, we must do all we can to prevent conflict from igniting across the region.”

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Palestinian boys inspect the remains of a car in the aftermath of an Israeli strike. Photo: Reuters

The toll of Palestinians killed in Israeli strikes on Gaza since October 7 has passed 25,000, health officials in the enclave said on Sunday, amid heavy Israeli strikes and street battles raging across the Hamas-run Strip.

Israeli forces and Hamas fighters clashed in several locations, from Jabalia in the north to Khan Younis farther south.

Gaza’s health ministry said 178 Palestinians were killed in the past 24 hours, one of the deadliest days so far of the war. Israel’s military said a soldier was killed in fighting.

A total of 25,105 Palestinians have been killed and 62,681 have been injured in Israeli strikes since October 7, the Gaza ministry said. It does not differentiate between civilian and militant deaths but says most of those killed have been civilians.

Israel launched its campaign to eliminate Hamas after the Islamist group burst into Israel on October 7 and rampaged through southern towns and bases, killing 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and dragging 253 hostages back to the enclave.

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Israeli forces have said they have cleared much of northern Gaza of Hamas’ military network and more than a million residents of that part of the enclave have moved south to flee the bombardment. However, fighting has continued in the Jabalia refugee camp and other areas around Gaza City.

Palestinian still in the area described dire conditions.

“We struggle to survive bombs, but frankly we try to survive hunger more. Finding food for the family, for the children, has become a more challenging adventure than surviving war,” Amer, 32, a father of three who lives in northern Gaza, told Reuters.

Israel’s military said its soldiers had killed 15 Palestinian gunmen during fighting in the northern Gaza Strip, while snipers, backed by air support, had “eliminated a number of terrorists” in Khan Younis.

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Displaced Palestinians queue to replenish their water supply from a truck provided by Medecins Sans Frontieres in a makeshift tent camp in Rafah near the border with Egypt in the southern Gaza Strip. Photo: AFP

Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri dismissed the Israeli account and the reported death toll, saying it was meant to “portray fake and delusional victory”.

Palestinians said fierce fighting has raged in Jabalia for the past three days. The sounds of shelling from the air and the ground were non-stop, they said. Some buildings caught fire and smoke rose where bombs had fallen.

In the southern city of Rafah, where over a million displaced people are concentrated, three Palestinians were killed in an Israeli air strike on a car. Another car was hit in Gaza City, killing three other people, health officials said.

Violence has also surged in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where Hamas’s rival the Palestinian Authority has limited self-rule. The Palestinian Health Ministry there said Israeli forces have killed 360 Palestinians since October 7.

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