At least 106 people were killed by an Israeli strike in central Gaza, the Hamas-run health ministry said on Monday.
Associated Press journalists at a nearby hospital watched frantic Palestinians carry the dead, including a baby, and wounded following the strike on the Maghazi refugee camp east of Deir al-Balah. One bloodied young girl looked stunned while her body was checked for broken bones.
“We were all targeted,” said Ahmad Turkomani, who lost several family members including his daughter and grandson. “There is no safe place in Gaza anyway.”
As Christmas Eve fell, smoke rose over the besieged territory, while in the West Bank Bethlehem was hushed, its holiday celebrations called off. In neighboring Egypt, tentative efforts continued on a deal for another exchange of hostages for Palestinians held by Israel.
The war has devastated parts of Gaza, killed roughly 20,400 Palestinians and displaced almost all of the territory’s 2.3 million people.
The mounting death toll among Israeli troops — 156 since the ground offensive began — could erode public support for the war, which was sparked when Hamas-led militants stormed communities in southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 and taking 240 hostage.
Israelis still largely stand behind the country’s stated goals of crushing Hamas’ governing and military capabilities and releasing the remaining 129 captives. That's despite rising international pressure against Israel’s offensive, and the soaring death toll and unprecedented suffering among Palestinians.
Palestinians reported heavy Israeli bombardment and gunfire in Jabaliya, an area north of Gaza City that Israel had claimed to control. Hamas’ military arm said its fighters shelled Israeli troops in Jabaliya and Jabaliya refugee camp.
Israel faces international criticism for the civilian death toll but it blames Hamas, citing the militants’ use of crowded residential areas and tunnels. Israel has launched thousands of airstrikes since Oct. 7. It says it has killed thousands of Hamas militants, without presenting evidence.
Israel also faces allegations of mistreating Palestinian men and teenage boys detained in homes, shelters, hospitals and elsewhere during the offensive. It has denied abuse allegations and said those without links to militants are quickly released.
Speaking to the AP from a hospital bed in Rafah after his release, Khamis al-Burdainy of Gaza City said Israeli forces detained him after tanks and bulldozers partly destroyed his home. He said men were handcuffed and blindfolded.
“We didn’t sleep. We didn’t get food and water,” he said, crying and covering his face.
Another released detainee, Mohammed Salem, from the Gaza City neighborhood of Shijaiyah, said Israeli troops beat them. “We were humiliated,” he said. “A female soldier would come and beat an old man, aged 72 years old.”
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