Crunch time looms as Hamas fighters shot dead 3 Israeli soldiers amid heavy bombardment

Crunch time looms as Hamas fighters shot dead 3 Israeli soldiers amid heavy bombardment

GAZA CITY: Israeli forces pressed ahead with their air and ground bombardment of the southern Gaza Strip, killing and wounding dozens of Palestinians, even as the United States and the United Nations repeatedly urged them to protect civilians.

The Israeli military said that three more soldiers were killed during fighting and four others were seriously wounded in various battles in the Gaza Strip.

More than 80 Israeli soldiers have been killed in Gaza since the start of the ground invasion of the Palestinian enclave, the UN said on Tuesday, citing official Israeli sources.

Asked on Monday about the mounting death toll since a truce collapsed between Israel and Hamas on Friday, Israel’s closest ally the United States said it was too soon to say whether Israel was doing enough to protect civilians and that it expected Israel not to strike zones it has identified as safe.

Residents and journalists on the ground said the intense Israeli air strikes in the south of the densely populated coastal enclave included areas where Israel had told people to seek shelter.

At the United Nations, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appealed to Israel to avoid further action that would make the already dire humanitarian situation in Hamas-run Gaza worse, and to spare civilians from more suffering.

“The Secretary-General is extremely alarmed by the resumption of hostilities between Israel and Hamas… For people ordered to evacuate, there is nowhere safe to go and very little to survive on,” U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said.

Israel largely captured the northern half of Gaza in November, and since a week-long truce collapsed on Friday they have swiftly pushed deep into the southern half.

UNGA President repeats call for Gaza ceasefire
UN General Assembly President Dennis Francis said he was “deeply alarmed and saddened by the resumption of hostilities in the Middle East” and repeated his call for “a longer-term humanitarian ceasefire” in the Gaza Strip.

He also called for the unconditional release of all remaining hostages held by Hamas and for the unimpeded access to aid to Palestinians in the enclave.

More than 130 hostages still in Gaza, says Israeli military
Israel’s military said on Tuesday that 137 hostages are still being held by Hamas inside Gaza, including 17 women and children.

“We have a moral obligation to continue to do everything to bring everyone home,” it said on X.

Latest casualty figures
Killed: 15,899
Wounded: 42,000

Occupied West Bank
Killed: 260
Wounded: 3,365

Killed: 1,147 in October 7 attack (revised down from 1,400)
Soldiers killed since October 7: 404
Wounded: 8,730

Source: Palestinian Health Ministry, Israeli army