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Gaza Health Ministry: 100 killed in Israeli airstrikes on refugee camp

Palestinians search for victims after an Israeli strike on a residential district of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on Sunday. Photo by Ismael Mohamad/UPI
1 of 8 | Palestinians search for victims after an Israeli strike on a residential district of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on Sunday. Photo by Ismael Mohamad/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 18 (UPI) -- Health officials in Gaza said Monday more than 100 people had been killed and dozens injured during Israeli airstrikes on the Jabalya refugee camp in northern Gaza in the past day.

Health Ministry Director-General Munir Al-Bursh told CNN that 110 bodies had been buried at a disused cemetery in Jabalya as of Monday morning, with dozens more believed still trapped beneath the rubble of bombed-out buildings.

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Speaking from a Hamas-run field clinic in the camp, Al-Bursh said most of those killed and injured were women and children.

The Israeli military said it was unable to comment without more specific details but acknowledged that it was operating in the area and blamed Hamas for "deliberately and systematically" embedding itself in schools, hospitals and homes.

Significant portions of the Jabalya district, north of Gaza City, and the camp in particular, lie in ruins from repeated airstrikes and raids by ground forces on what Israel Defense Forces have called a Hamas hotbed.

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Claims by the Latin patriarchate of Jerusalem that two women taking refuge in a church in Gaza City had been killed by an IDF sniper over the weekend prompted Pope Francis to add his voice to French, British and German calls for an immediate truce.

French foreign minister Catherine Colonna, speaking during a visit to Israel, said an "immediate and durable" truce would help get more humanitarian supplies into Gaza, allow the release of more hostages and nudge the warring sides toward "the beginning of a political solution".

In a joint op-ed published in Britain's Sunday Times, British Foreign Secretary David Cameron and German counterpart Annalena Baerbock, made the case for a "sustainable" cease-fire, warning the civilian death toll was too high.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin arrived in Israel to push Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his war cabinet on transitioning from general war tactics to a lower-intensity strategy that prioritizes targeting Hamas' fighters and leaders.

Washington wants to see that happen within weeks and Austin will quiz his hosts on "what metrics they're looking at in order to transition to the next phase of their campaign in Gaza," according to a senior Pentagon official.

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Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch accused the Israeli government of using starvation of civilians as a method of warfare in the Gaza Strip, which is a war crime.

The group cited examples of public statements by Israeli officials expressing their aim to deprive civilians in Gaza of food, water, and fuel -- which the country has endeavored to have its military accomplish.

HRW singled out Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir and Energy Minister Israel Katz for criticism, urging the government to refrain from targeting infrastructure necessary for the survival of the civilian population, to lift its blockade of the Gaza Strip, and restore electricity and water.

"For over two months, Israel has been depriving Gaza's population of food and water, a policy spurred on or endorsed by high-ranking Israeli officials and reflecting an intent to starve civilians as a method of warfare," said HRW Israel and Palestine director Omar Shakir.

"World leaders should be speaking out against this abhorrent war crime, which has devastating effects on Gaza's population."

Other unnamed Israeli officials were rebuked for conditioning humanitarian aid to Gaza either on the release of hostages held by Hamas or Hamas' destruction.

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HRW also accused Israel of "willfully impeding humanitarian assistance, apparently razing agricultural areas and depriving the civilian population of objects indispensable to their survival."

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