Palestinian health officials reported that at least seventy people were killed by an Israeli airstrike that struck Maghazi in the center of the besieged strip. On Monday, at a funeral in Gaza, a line of Palestinians touched the white shrouds containing the bodies of the deceased. After an 11-week battle between Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that controls Gaza, the funeral took place after one of the deadliest nights in the enclave. Some were crying, and one man was hugging a dead child.
According to one man, Ibrahim Youssef, an airstrike destroyed the home where he and his four children—including a four-month-old infant—were staying in the Maghazi refugee camp, trapping them under the debris. Youssef claimed to have rushed back home after learning of the strike while he was away. He’d managed to save one of his sons, but not the others. He questioned, “What did they do wrong?” “Were resistance fighters present here?”
Although Israel disputes that it targets civilians, Hamas is accused by Israel of constructing military infrastructure and tunnels in heavily populated civilian areas. Israel has increased its air and ground shelling in central Gaza, according to Palestinian media.
According to Ashraf Al-Qidra, a spokesman for the health ministry, many of the people killed in Maghazi were women and children. According to health officials, eight more people lost their lives when Israeli tanks and planes launched numerous strikes on roads and homes in the neighboring towns of al-Bureij and al-Nusseirat. According to medics, 23 Palestinians were killed in an Israeli airstrike in Khan Younis, southern Gaza, bringing the total number of Palestinian deaths that night to over 100.
In a Christmas message on Monday, Pope Francis said that the Israeli strikes were resulting in an “appalling harvest” of innocent civilian deaths and that children dying in wars, including the one in Gaza, are the “little Jesuses of today.” To celebrate Christmas, a portion of Gaza’s tiny Christian community took a vacation from the fighting and hardships.
Several Bureij residents who had lost their homes posted pleading messages on social media asking for help finding them a place to stay. “Sixty people are living in my home; they came here thinking that the central Gaza area was secure. As of right now, we’re looking for somewhere to go,” Odeh, a camp resident, said.
The Israeli army declared that it was devoted to minimizing damage to civilians and that it was examining the report of an incident in Maghazi. Although Hamas disputes this, Israel claims that Hamas operates in heavily populated areas and uses civilians as human shields. Israeli warplanes, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent, are bombing major roads, making it difficult for ambulances and other emergency vehicles to pass.
In Bethlehem, the West Bank city under Israeli occupation where Christian tradition claims Jesus was born in a stable 2,000 years ago, Christian clergy called off celebrations. Instead of the customary festivities, Palestinian Christians celebrated Christmas Eve in Bethlehem with hymns and prayers for peace in Gaza under the light of candles.
In a change from his custom that mirrored the current despair surrounding Gaza, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas sent a representative rather than showing up for the midnight vigil. The main feature of Bethlehem’s Christmas celebrations, a big tree, was missing. To show support for the people of Gaza, nativity figurines from churches were positioned amid debris and barbed wire.
It is thought that over 100 hostages are being held by Hamas and its smaller militant ally Islamic Jihad, both of whom have vowed to destroy Israel. On October 7, they went on a rampage through Israeli towns and killed 1,200 people.
Israel has since encircled and largely destroyed the small Gaza Strip. According to authorities in Gaza, which is ruled by Hamas, about 20,700 people have died as a result of Israeli airstrikes, with 250 of those deaths occurring in the past 24 hours. Under the debris, thousands more people are thought to have perished.
The United Nations reports that conditions in Gaza are catastrophic and that the vast majority of its 2.3 million residents have been forced from their homes.
The Israeli military reported on Monday that two of its soldiers had lost their lives the previous day, bringing the total number of casualties since ground operations started on October 20 to 158. Meanwhile, three security sources reported that a senior adviser with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards was killed on Monday by an Israeli airstrike outside the Syrian capital of Damascus. The adviser, Sayyed Razi Mousavi, was in charge of arranging the military alliance between Syria and Iran, which backs Hamas in Gaza, according to the people who spoke with Reuters.
Little public progress has been made in the diplomatic efforts to broker a new ceasefire to release the remaining hostages in Gaza, despite Washington characterizing last week’s negotiations as “very serious.” These efforts are being mediated by Egypt and Qatar. Ziad al-Nakhlala, the leader of Islamic Jihad, led a delegation that arrived in Cairo on Sunday, according to the group. Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of Hamas, attended discussions before his arrival.
The Israelis say they are willing to discuss only a pause in the fighting, while the militant groups have stated they would not discuss any hostage release until Israel ends its war in Gaza.