Israel continues to pound Gaza as it warns war could continue for ‘months’

Israeli air strikes and tanks continue to hammer all areas of Gaza, offering Palestinians no haven from the violence.

Smoke rises after Israeli strikes, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, December 10, 2023. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa
Smoke rises after Israeli military strikes in Khan Younis, southern Gaza, December 10 [Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters]

Israel’s military continues to bombard southern Gaza, and its ground forces and tanks focused fire on refugee camps in the centre of the enclave, after Tel Aviv warned that the war on Hamas may drag on for some time.

Israeli air strikes hammered the southern cities of Khan Younis and Rafah on Monday morning, offering Palestinians no respite from violence that has killed 18,000 civilians and displaced 1.9 million since the October 7 assault by Palestinian group Hamas on southern Israel that killed around 1,200.

Their plight is unlikely to improve in the near future, as Israel’s national security adviser, Tzachi Hanegbi, said on Sunday that the war may have to be “measured in months”.

In central Gaza, Israeli tank shelling resumed on the Bureij and Maghazi refugee camps following overnight strikes that produced numerous casualties.

“We’re seeing civilians being killed at a historic pace,” said Al Jazeera’s Hani Mahmoud, reporting from Rafah.

“Maghazi is a densely populated refugee camp in central Gaza … in a very densely populated neighbourhood. Homes were targeted overnight and 23 people were reported killed. Many were injured around those houses that were targeted,” he said.

The latest strikes come as those fleeing violence cram into a tiny pocket of southern Gaza near the Egyptian border with scarce food, water or medicine – and the World Health Organization warns Gaza’s healthcare system is “on its knees and collapsing”.

‘Still a long way away’

Despite mounting global calls for a ceasefire, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to press on with the offensive however long it takes to root out Hamas.

He has been bolstered by fresh military support from the White House, which on Saturday said it had skipped congressional review to approve an emergency $106m sale to Israel of 14,000 rounds of tank ammunition.

“People are talking about this war stretching on for another two months,” said Al Jazeera’s Alan Fisher, reporting from occupied East Jerusalem.

“Benjamin Netanyahu says that [Israel] will continue to fight until it achieves all its goals… which include the release of all those held captive, the destruction of Hamas and the deradicalisation of Gaza, as he calls it,” he said.

“It seems that Israel is still a long way away from that, which means the end of the war is still a long way away too.”

The US also continued to shield Israel diplomatically at the United Nations, vetoing a Friday resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire.

“If America is putting any pressure on Israel, it is very much behind the scenes because as we saw at the United Nations… they are very much in line with what Israel is doing, and Benjamin Netanyahu knows that,” said Fisher.

Hanegbi told Israel’s Channel 12 TV that the US has set no deadline for Israel to achieve its goals.

“The evaluation that this can’t be measured in weeks is correct, and I’m not sure it can be measured in months,” he said.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told CNN that as far as the duration and the conduct of the fighting go, “these are decisions for Israel to make”.

With fresh US firepower on the way, Netanyahu on Sunday called on Hamas fighters to lay down their weapons, promising the armed group was nearing defeat.

Hamas, however, remained defiant, with a senior member of its political bureau saying the group was having success in its fight with Israeli forces and that the “end of the occupation has begun”.

Nowhere safe

For displaced Palestinians, every day of the drawn-out offensive comes with a fresh wave of danger and suffering. Food is scarce and the healthcare system collapsing.

Israel continues to pound all areas of the enclave, including the south of Gaza, to which it has directed Palestinians to head to escape the violence.

“No place is safe in Gaza,” said Juliette Touma, communications director for the UN’s agency for Palestinian refugees, to Al Jazeera. “The only way out of this is a humanitarian ceasefire. This is what needs to happen.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies