The Palestinian death toll from Israeli attacks on the besieged Gaza Strip crossed the grim 10,000 mark on Monday, according to the Health Ministry.
The confirmation comes as Israel continued to ignore growing calls for a humanitarian cease-fire as it pounded Gaza with “significant” strikes Monday while claiming it has surrounded the besieged territory, splitting it in two.
Israeli troops and Hamas are engaged in house-to-house combat in densely populated Gaza, where the war has sent 1.5 million people fleeing to other parts of the territory in a desperate search for cover.
“This strike is like an earthquake,” Gaza City resident Alaa Abu Hasera said, in a devastated area where entire blocks were reduced to rubble.
Israel launched a massive bombing campaign following the Oct. 7 Hamas incursion.
The Health Ministry in Gaza says more than 9,770 people, many of them women and children, have been killed in Israeli strikes and the intensifying ground campaign since the war began. Israeli casualties currently stand at around 1,550.
Israel has resisted calls for a halt in the fighting, with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken touring the region calling for “pauses” while rejecting Arab countries’ demands for a cease-fire.
Israeli troops now encircle Gaza City, effectively splitting the territory in two, with “significant” strikes carried out, army spokesperson Daniel Hagari said late Sunday.
Shortly before the strikes, internet and telephone lines were cut, Hagari said, adding that the strikes would continue in the days to come.
‘Enough is enough’
Israel has distributed leaflets and sent text messages ordering Palestinian civilians in northern Gaza to head south, but a U.S. official said Saturday at least 350,000 civilians remain in the worst-hit areas.
On Sunday, the Health Ministry said 45 people were killed in Israeli strikes on a refugee camp in central Gaza, leaving people searching through the rubble.
“Are there any survivors?” shouted Said al-Najma, as he tried to shift the blocks of concrete strewn across the road in the camp.
“They brought down an entire street on the heads of women and children without any notice,” he said.
Deepening the desperation in the crowded territory, the sole border crossing into Egypt was closed Sunday for a second day in a row, with Hamas suspending the evacuation of foreign passport holders after Israel refused to allow some wounded Palestinians to be evacuated.
The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) confirmed the closure, saying more than 1,100 people had been allowed out in the two days previous.
As international concern grows at mounting casualties, the heads of all major United Nations agencies issued a joint statement expressing outrage at the civilian death toll in Gaza and calling for an “immediate humanitarian cease-fire.”
“For almost a month, the world has been watching the unfolding situation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory in shock and horror at the spiraling numbers of lives lost and torn apart,” the U.N. chiefs said, including the heads of UNICEF, the World Food Programme and the World Health Organization.
“We need an immediate humanitarian cease-fire. It’s been 30 days. Enough is enough. This must stop now.”
The statement came as Blinken pressed a whirlwind Middle East tour focused on aid for the Palestinians, backing “humanitarian pauses” in the fighting – in a trip that has taken him to Israel and the occupied West Bank, as well as to Jordan, Iraq and Cyprus.
Blinken on Sunday went to the West Bank, where Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas denounced “the genocide and destruction suffered by our Palestinian people in Gaza at the hands of Israel’s war machine,” the official Palestinian news agency Wafa said.
On Monday, Blinken holds tough talks in Türkiye in a bid to soothe the anger of one of Washington’s most strategic but difficult allies about the bloodshed in Gaza.
NATO member Türkiye, which is allied to the Palestinians but also has ties with Israel, has said it is recalling its ambassador to Israel and breaking off contacts with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Netanyahu has remained firm on his position, vowing that “there won’t be a cease-fire until the hostages are returned.”
“Let them remove this from their lexicon. We are saying this to our enemies and to our friends,” the right-wing premier said after meeting troops.
“We will simply continue until we win. We have no alternative.”
Jordan’s air force has air-dropped vital medical supplies to a field hospital in Gaza, King Abdullah II said Monday, adding that it was his country’s “duty to aid our brothers and sisters injured in the war on Gaza.”
Israel’s army said it had “coordinated” with treaty ally Amman on the aid drop.
The war has exacerbated tensions in the West Bank, where more than 150 Palestinians have been killed in clashes with Israeli forces and settlers since the start of the war, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.
The Israeli military said Monday it had arrested Palestinian activist Ahed Tamimi, 22, in a raid in her West Bank town of Nabi Salih on suspicion of “inciting violence and terrorist activities.”
Tamimi became prominent at age 14 when she was filmed biting an Israeli soldier to prevent him from arresting her younger brother, who was pinned to the ground while he had his arm in a cast.
She later became an icon of the Palestinian cause, and a large portrait of her was painted on the Israeli separation wall with the West Bank.