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Gaza Health Ministry says 22,313 dead; IDF reports 'intense fighting' in Khan Younis

The Israel Defense Forces said Wednesday that it was engaged in "intense fighting" in Khan Younis. Photo by Ismael Mohamad/UPI
1 of 3 | The Israel Defense Forces said Wednesday that it was engaged in "intense fighting" in Khan Younis. Photo by Ismael Mohamad/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 3 (UPI) -- Gaza's Health Ministry on Wednesday said the death toll amid Israel's war with Hamas continued to climb as the Israeli military confirmed it was intensifying its attack in Khan Younis.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health said that 128 people had been killed and 261 injured in the past 24 hours bringing the total death toll from Israeli military action in the Palestinian enclave to 22,313.

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A total of 57,296 since the start of the conflict on Oct. 7, the Hamas-run agency wrote in a post on social media

News of the steadily mounting human cost came as the Israel Defense Forces said it was engaged in fierce battles with Hamas in the southern city of Khan Younis.

Its forces were continuing "intense fighting and deepening the attack," the IDF said on X.

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In one incident, infantry of the Givatay Brigade Combat Team called in an airstrike that killed a Hamas fighter attempting to attach a bomb to an IDF tank, and three other militants nearby.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization condemned Israeli airstrikes that the Palestinian Red Crescent Society says killed at least five civilians Tuesday at the city's Al-Amal Hospital where thousands of displaced people are sheltering and badly damaged a PRCS training facility in the complex.

Saying he deplored the "unconscionable" attacks, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus wrote in a post on X that hospitals, ambulances, health workers, and those seeking medical care must be protected, at all times, under international humanitarian law.

"My WHO and U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs colleagues undertook a mission to the facilities, where they witnessed extensive damage and displacement of civilians."

Ghebreyesus said many of the 14,000 people sheltering at the hospital had fled since the attacks and those left behind were "extremely fearful for their safety" and making plans to leave.

"Today's bombardments are unconscionable. Gaza's health system is already on its knees, with health and aid workers continuously stymied in their efforts to save lives due to the hostilities."

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In Israel, ministers on the far-right of Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition hit back at U.S. criticism of their controversial calls for Palestinians to be re-settled overseas, telling Washington to stay out of Israel's affairs and doubling down on their message.

"Really appreciate the United States of America but with all due respect we are not another star on the American flag," National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir wrote on X.

"The United States is our best friend, but first of all we will do what is best for the State of Israel: The migration of hundreds of thousands from Gaza will allow the residents of the enclave to return home and live in security and protect the IDF soldiers."

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, leader of the ultra-nationalist Religious Zionism Party, reiterated his claim that "voluntary emigration of Gaza Arabs and their absorption in other countries" was a humanitarian solution supported by "more than 70% of the Israeli public today."

"A small country like ours cannot afford a reality where four minutes away from our communities there is a hotbed of hatred and terrorism, where two million people wake up every morning with aspiration for the destruction of the State of Israel and with a desire to slaughter and rape and murder Jews wherever they are," Smotrich wrote in a statement.

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"We are required to rethink and share [ideas] with our friends in the international community that will bring peace, security and prosperity to all the peoples of the region," he says.

On Tuesday, State Department spokesman Matthew Miller called out both cabinet members condemning their comments as "inflammatory and irresponsible" rhetoric.

"We have been told repeatedly and consistently by the government of Israel, including by the prime minister, that such statements do not reflect the policy of the Israeli government," Miller said in a statement.

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