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US vetoes UN ceasefire bid as battles rage across Gaza

An extraordinary UN bid to call for a ceasefire in Gaza was blocked by the United States on Friday while Israeli forces continued a relentless…

An extraordinary UN bid to call for a ceasefire in Gaza was blocked by the United States on Friday while Israeli forces continued a relentless offensive to destroy Hamas after its deadly attack two months ago.

The fighting has left 17,487 people dead in the Palestinian territory, mostly women and children, according to the latest toll from the Hamas-run health ministry.

Israel has vowed to eradicate Hamas over its unprecedented attack on October 7 when militants broke through Gaza’s militarised border to kill around 1,200 people and seize hostages, 138 of whom remain captive, according to Israeli figures.

Vast areas of Gaza have been reduced to a wasteland. The UN says about 80 per cent of the population has been displaced, facing dire shortages of food, fuel, water and medicine, and the growing threat of disease.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres invoked the rarely-used Article 99 of the UN Charter to convene an emergency Security Council meeting calling for an immediate ceasefire.

He urged the release of hostages, but said “the brutality perpetrated by Hamas can never justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people”.

But the US, which supplies billions of dollars in military assistance to Israel, vetoed the resolution.

Its deputy representative at the UN, Robert Wood, said it was “divorced from reality” and “would have not moved the needle forward on the ground”.

That was despite warnings from the World Health Organization that civilisation was collapsing in Gaza.

“People are starting to cut down telephone poles to have a little bit of firewood to keep warm or maybe cook if they have anything available,” WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier said.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said the Security Council was “complicit in the ongoing slaughter”.

Battles on multiple fronts
Israel’s military said it had struck 450 targets in Gaza over 24 hours, showing footage of strikes from naval vessels in the Mediterranean.

The Hamas health ministry reported 40 dead near Gaza City in the north and dozens more in Jabalia and the main southern city of Khan Yunis.

“May God punish those who can see our suffering and remain calm,” said one Gazan, Rimah Mansi, who told AFP they had lost “all those we love”.

Israel has lost 91 soldiers in Gaza.

It said two others were wounded in a failed bid to rescue hostages overnight, and that “numerous terrorists” were killed in the operation.

Hamas claimed a hostage was killed in the operation, and released a video purporting to show the body, which could not be independently verified.

Hamas rocket parts, launchers and other weapons as well as a one-kilometre tunnel were found at Al-Azhar University in Gaza City, the army said, as it warned residents to move west.

Many of the 1.9 million displaced Gazans have headed south, turning Rafah near the Egyptian border into a vast camp.

“It’s so cold, and the tent is so small. All I have are the clothes I wear, I still don’t know what the next step will be,” said Mahmud Abu Rayan, displaced from Beit Lahia in the north.

The death toll also rose in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where Israeli forces shot dead six Palestinians on Friday, the territory’s health ministry said.

The armed wing of Hamas, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, said it had fired more rockets towards Israeli territory.

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