Airstrikes hit camps in central Gaza as Biden administration approves new weapons sales to Israel


An Israeli soldier operates in the Gaza Strip amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in this handout picture released on Dec. 29, 2023.

Israel Defense Forces | Via Reuters

Israeli warplanes struck two urban refugee camps in central Gaza on Saturday, as the Biden administration approved a new emergency weapons sale to Israel despite persistent international cease-fire calls over mounting civilian deaths, hunger and mass displacement in the enclave.

Even a brief halt in fighting seems out of reach. A senior Hamas official told The Associated Press in Beirut on Saturday that the group has not budged from its position that a permanent cease-fire has to be the starting point for any further releases of Israeli and foreign hostages the group holds, which runs counter to a recent proposal by Egypt for a staged end to the war.

It’s a demand Israel is bound to reject. Israel has said it will pursue its unprecedented air and ground offensive until it has dismantled Hamas, a goal viewed by some as unattainable because of the militant group’s deep roots in Palestinian society. The United States has shielded Israel diplomatically and has continued to supply weapons.

Israel argues that ending the war now would mean victory for Hamas, a stance shared by the Biden administration which at the same time urged Israel to do more to avoid harm to Palestinian civilians.

The war, triggered by the deadly Oct. 7 Hamas attack on southern Israel, has displaced some 85% of the Gaza Strip’s 2.3 million residents, sending swells of people seeking shelter in Israeli-designated safe areas that the military has nevertheless also bombed. That has left Palestinians with a harrowing sense that nowhere is safe in the tiny enclave.

Read more about the Israel-Hamas war:

The Health Ministry in Gaza said Saturday that the Palestinian death toll since the start of the war rose to 21,672, with a further 56,165 people wounded during the same period. Over the past 24 hours, 165 people were killed, said ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra. The ministry does not distinguish between the deaths of combatants and civilians, but has said about 70% of those killed have been women and children.

Some of the latest deaths were reported as Israeli airstrikes targeted the urban refugee camps of Nuseirat and Bureij overnight and into Saturday.

Nuseirat resident Mustafa Abu Wawee said a strike hit the home of one of his relatives, killing two people.

“The (Israeli) occupation is doing everything to force people to leave,” he said over the phone while searching along with others for four people missing under the rubble. “They want to break our spirit and will but they will fail. We are here to stay.”

A second strike late Friday in Nuseirat targeted the home of a journalist for Al-Quds TV, a channel linked to the group Islamic Jihad whose militants also participated in the Oct. 7 attack. The channel said the journalist, Jaber Abu Hadros and six members of his family were killed.

Bureij resident Rami Abu Mosab said sounds of gunfire echoed across the camp overnight, followed by heavy airstrikes Saturday.

With Israeli forces pushing deeper into Khan Younis and the camps of central Gaza, tens of thousands of Palestinians streamed into the already crowded city of Rafah at the southernmost end of Gaza in recent days.

Drone footage showed a vast camp of thousands of tents and makeshift shacks set up on what had been empty land on Rafah’s western outskirts next to U.N. warehouses. People arrived in Rafah in trucks, in carts and on foot. Those who did not find space in the already overwhelmed shelters put up tents on roadsides slick with mud from winter rains.

More U.S. weapons for Israel

Difficulties in delivering aid

Trading for hostages

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