Israel continues onslaught in Gaza as officials report gunfire aimed at Khan Younis hospital

Netanyahu repeats opposition to independent Palestinian state as death toll in enclave nears 25,000

As the Israeli army continued its military onslaught in Gaza, particularly in the enclave’s second-largest city, Khan Younis, Palestinian Red Crescent officials reported that intense gunfire from Israeli drones had targeted the city’s Al-Amal hospital.

The Hamas-run ministry for health in Gaza reports that almost 25,000 residents have been killed and some 7,000 are missing since the war with Israel began more than three months ago. The ministry does not distinguish between civilian fatalities and militants.

Israel claims that its forces have killed more than 9,000 gunmen. It says 1,200 people were killed and 240 kidnapped to Gaza when Hamas gunmen crossed the border and entered 22 communities in southern Israel on October 7th.

According to the United Nations office for the co-ordination of humanitarian affairs, at least 60 per cent of homes in Gaza have been destroyed or damaged and 90 per cent of schools have suffered significant damage. Hospitals, public buildings and electricity networks have also been hit.


Despite public differences over the question of a Palestinian state, US president Joe Biden spoke by phone for 40 minutes with Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Friday – the first contact between the two leaders in almost a month.

Mr Netanyahu in a press conference on Thursday night rejected Washington’s call to take steps toward the establishment of a Palestinian state as part of a postwar Gaza settlement.

US state department spokesman Matthew Miller reiterated the US position in comments on Friday.

“There is no way to solve long-term challenges to provide lasting security, and there is no way to solve the short-term challenges of rebuilding Gaza, of establishing governance in Gaza and of providing security for Gaza, without the establishment of a Palestinian state,” Mr Miller said.

Nabil Abu Rdeineh, the spokesman for Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, said on Friday there could be “no security and stability in the region” without a Palestinian state.

Russia has urged Hamas to release civilian hostages who were seized on October 7th, including three Russian nationals. Russia’s deputy minister for foreign affairs Mikhail Bogdanov discussed the Gaza war with a visiting Hamas delegation in Moscow on Friday, saying the humanitarian crisis had now reached “catastrophic proportions”.

Relatives of the hostages still in captivity blocked the main Tel Aviv Ayalon highway on Thursday night, shouting “All of them, now,” the first action of what they promise to be a series of more militant protests to press the government to reach a deal with Hamas for the release of the hostages. The Hostages and Missing Families Forum sent a message to Mr Netanyahu stating: “Your 100 days of grace are over.”

More than 100 hostages were freed during a truce in November, and Israel believes as many more are still in captivity in Gaza.

The hostage families are not the only group losing patience with the government, amid signs that the military operation in Gaza is treading water and has failed to bring about the defeat of Hamas or the release of the hostages.

Residents of Gaza periphery communities and residents close to the northern border with Lebanon have now been away from their homes for more than three months with no sign they will be returning any time soon.

Israel continues to threaten the use of military force to push the Iranian-backed Hizbullah from the northern border if no diplomatic solution is reached. Minister for defence Yoav Gallant told US defence secretary Lloyd Austin that Israel “is committed to returning the residents of the north to their homes safely and is approaching a decision point on the issue”.

President Isaac Herzog was the subject of criminal complaints during his visit to the World Economic Forum in Davos this week, amid accusations that Israel committed war crimes in Gaza. Swiss legal authorities said the complaints would be examined but refused to say who had lodged them.

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss is a contributor to The Irish Times based in Jerusalem