Europe 1 with AFP / Photo credit: SAHER ALGHORRA / MIDDLE EAST IMAGES / MIDDLE EAST IMAGES VIA AFP 07:05, 09 December 2023, modified at 07:06, 09 December 2023

On the 64th day of the conflict between Israel and Hamas, the Israeli military maintained its offensive in the Gaza Strip on Saturday, after the US veto an unprecedented UN Security Council resolution calling for an "immediate humanitarian ceasefire".

Hamas on Saturday "strongly condemned" the US veto, calling it an "immoral and inhumane position" and "direct participation" in the "massacres", according to Ezzat al-Rishq, a senior political figure in the movement. In the Gaza Strip, Israeli shelling killed 17,487 people, more than two-thirds of them women and children under the age of 18, according to the latest toll released Friday by Hamas' Health Ministry.

Key takeaways:

  • Israeli shelling has killed 17,487 people, according to the latest figures
  • 138 people remain hostages of Hamas terrorists, whose attack on October 7 killed 1,200 people
  • The U.S. has vetoed a U.N. resolution calling for an "immediate humanitarian ceasefire"
  • Only 14 of the 36 hospitals in the Gaza Strip are functioning in a 'nightmarish humanitarian context'

Israeli strike kills six people in the town of Khan Younis

On the southern town of Khan Younis, an Israeli strike killed six people, while five others died in a separate attack in Rafah, the Hamas ministry said Saturday. The war was sparked by the bloody October 7 attack on Israeli soil by Hamas commandos infiltrated from Gaza, in which 1,200 people, mostly civilians, were killed, according to Israeli authorities, and about 240 others taken hostage, 138 of whom remain in captivity.

In response, Israel vowed to "annihilate" Hamas, which has ruled the Gaza Strip since 2007 and is classified as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union and Israel. According to the UN, more than half of the homes have been destroyed or damaged by the war in the territory, where 1.9 million people, or 85% of the population, have fled their homes. "It's so cold and the tent is so small. I only have the clothes I wear. I still don't know what the next step will be," said Mahmud Abu Rayan, a displaced person from the northern city of Beit Lahia.

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'Moral failure'

The U.S. veto Friday before the U.N. Security Council was swiftly condemned by humanitarian organizations, with Doctors Without Borders (MSF) saying the U.N. Security Council's inaction makes it "complicit in the massacre" in the Gaza Strip. Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh also slammed "the failure of the Security Council to adopt a draft resolution aimed at ending the aggression against our people in the Gaza Strip due to the use by the United States of its veto," which he called a "disgrace" and "another blank cheque for the occupying state to massacre, destroy and displace."

According to him, the use of the veto shows the "lie" of the United States when it says it cares about civilian casualties. At the UN, Deputy U.S. Ambassador Robert Wood justified the U.S. veto. "We do not support a resolution that calls for an unsustainable ceasefire that will simply plant the seeds of the next war," he said on Friday, denouncing the "moral failure" of the absence of the October 7 Hamas attacks in the condemnation text.

Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said the ceasefire would "prevent the collapse of the Hamas terrorist organization, which commits war crimes and crimes against humanity, and allow it to continue to rule the Gaza Strip." The Israeli military said Friday it had struck "more than 450 targets" in 24 hours in Gaza, showing footage of strikes carried out from warships in the Mediterranean. Hamas' health ministry reported 40 dead near Gaza City in the north, and dozens more in Jabalia and Khan Younis in the south.

'Nightmarish humanitarian context'

After two months of conflict and bombardment, UN chief Antonio Guterres said that "the people of Gaza are looking towards the abyss." "People are desperate, scared and angry," he said on Friday, stressing that "all of this is taking place in a nightmarish humanitarian context." Many of the 1.9 million Gazans displaced by the war have moved south, turning Rafah, along the closed border with Egypt, into a sprawling refugee camp.

As the death toll of medical and humanitarian workers in the conflict mounts, a draft resolution submitted to the WHO by 17 member countries and special status Palestine on Friday demanded that Israel fully comply with its obligations to protect these workers in the Gaza Strip. They called on Israel to "respect and protect" medical and humanitarian workers assigned exclusively to medical tasks, as well as hospitals and other medical facilities.

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Only 14 of the 36 hospitals in the Gaza Strip are functioning

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), only 14 of the 36 hospitals in the Gaza Strip were still functioning as best they could on Thursday. In the face of mounting civilian casualties, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Friday that Washington believes Israel must do more to protect civilians in the conflict.

"We all recognise that more can be done to reduce civilian casualties. And we will continue to work with our Israeli counterparts to that end," he said. The death toll also rose in the West Bank, where Israeli forces shot dead six Palestinians on Friday, according to the territory's health ministry. Israel said Friday it had lost 91 soldiers in Gaza, saying two more soldiers were wounded in a failed hostage rescue attempt overnight, adding that "many terrorists" were killed during the operation.

Hamas claimed that a hostage had been killed during the operation and released a video showing the body, which could not be independently verified. Pieces of Hamas rockets, launchers and other weapons, as well as a one-kilometer tunnel, were discovered at Al-Azhar University in Gaza City, the army said, advising residents to move west.

Attack on the U.S. Embassy

An attack on the U.S. Embassy in Iraq on Friday heightened fears of a wider regional conflict. Salvos of rockets were launched at the mission in Baghdad's heavily secured Green Zone, adding to dozens of recent rocket and drone strikes by pro-Iranian groups against U.S. or coalition forces in Iraq and Syria.

Separately, three Hezbollah fighters and a Syrian were killed on Friday in an Israeli drone strike on their car in southern Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said.