Israel on Monday said it was “intensifying the fighting” against Hamas in Gaza, where relentless strikes across the Palestinian territory exacerbated the dire conditions for civilians in the war’s 12th week.
The conflict has heightened tensions across the Middle East where Iran — which supports Hamas — on Monday accused Israel of killing a senior Revolutionary Guards general in Syria and vowed revenge.
Pope Francis decried the “desperate humanitarian situation” in Gaza. During his traditional Christmas message he called for an immediate ceasefire and the freeing of hostages.
As war raged, festivities in Bethlehem, which Christians consider to be the birthplace of Jesus Christ, were effectively scrapped in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. The city’s usually vibrant streets had only a handful of worshippers and tourists.
The war erupted when Palestinian militants broke through Gaza’s militarised border and attacked southern Israel on October 7, killing about 1,140 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures.
Militants also seized about 250 hostages, Israel says.
Israel vowed to crush Hamas and launched a retaliatory military campaign in Gaza, including extensive aerial bombardment and siege. The campaign has killed at least 20,674 people, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.