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Israeli-Hamas War: end of dark year without outcome in sight | Middle East, the eternal conflict

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This photo taken near the border with the strip of Gaza shows Israeli troops on tanks retreating from the Gaza Strip, December 31, 2023.

Agence France-Presse

Israel continued its bombardments on Sunday on the besieged Gaza Strip and in a desperate humanitarian situation for the Palestinians after almost three months of war against Hamas at the end of a dark year for both parties.

At least 40 Palestinians were killed in overnight strikes on Gaza City, the Palestinian territory's ruling Hamas health ministry said. Eighteen bodies have been found so far and many more are buried under the rubble, he added.

After the explosion, we arrived on the scene and we saw martyrs everywhere […], children are still missing, testified Mohamed Btihan, a resident of Gaza.

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Gazans lived the last day of the year to the rhythm of Israeli bombings.

The Israeli army, for its part, indicated that it had killed more than a dozen enemy fighters during multiple ground battles, airstrikes and tank fire, adding that it had located Hamas tunnels and placed explosives in a nursery school.

Middle East, the eternal conflict

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The war triggered by the unprecedented attacks by the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas on Israeli soil on October 7 will continue for many months, warned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

We hoped that the year 2024 would arrive under better auspices and that we would be able to celebrate the New Year at home, with family. But the situation is difficult, lamented Mahmoud Abou Shahma, 33, in a camp for displaced people in Rafah, at the southern tip of the Gaza Strip.

We hope for the end of the war and to be able to return home to live peacefully, added this man from Khan Younes, the main city in the south of the Gaza Strip and the new epicenter of the fighting between the Israeli army and Hamas .

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Two Palestinian women cry after bombing at hospital in Khan Younis, in southern Gaza (Archive photo).

In Israel, New Year's celebrations are expected to be more sober than usual in Tel Aviv, the party capital, where the bars will be open all night, but the atmosphere will not be the same. even, tens of thousands of young people being mobilized on the front.

The Hamas attack on October 7 left around 1,140 dead in Israel, most of them civilians, according to an AFP count based on official Israeli data. In response, Israel has vowed to destroy the ruling Islamist movement in the Gaza Strip, and has relentlessly shelled the small territory where 129 people of the approximately 250 taken hostage on October 7 are still being held by Hamas and its local allies.

According to a new report announced Sunday by the Hamas Ministry of Health, 21,822 people, mostly women, adolescents and children, have been killed in the Gaza Strip since the start of the war, and 56,451 injured.

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Palestinian children line up to receive food prepared by a charity kitchen last week.

In recent weeks, the Israeli army deployed in the north of the Gaza Strip, then towards Khan Younes (south) and recently in the camps in the center of this territory where 1.9 million inhabitants (85% of the population) have had to flee their homes due to the fighting.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned of the growing threat of the spread of infectious diseases and the UN has said it fears a famine.

Mr. Netanyahu reaffirmed on Sunday that Israel would continue its war whose justice and morality are unparalleled, reacting to accusations of acts of genocide brought by South Africa before the International Court of Justice (ICJ). ).

The relatives of hostages held in the Gaza Strip are maintaining pressure on the Israeli government. More than a thousand people demonstrated Saturday evening in Tel Aviv in support of the hostages and their loved ones, chanting take them home!

International mediators, led by Qatar and Egypt, managed to negotiate a one-week truce at the end of November which allowed the release of more than 100 hostages and the entry into Gaza of limited help. They are currently continuing their efforts towards a new break in the fighting.

A delegation from Hamas, a movement classified as a terrorist organization by the EU, the United States and Israel in particular, arrived in Cairo on Friday to convey the response of the Palestinian factions to an Egyptian plan providing for the release of hostages and a pause in the clashes.

This response will be given in the coming days, said Muhammad al-Hindi, deputy secretary general of Islamic Jihad, in a statement, an armed group fighting alongside Hamas.

Questioned on Saturday evening, Benyamin Netanyahu remained evasive about the behind-the-scenes negotiations, but assured that the war would continue for several more months.

The war in Gaza has reignited tensions on the border between Lebanon and Israel, an almost daily scene since October 7 of exchanges of fire between the Israeli army and Lebanese Hezbollah, an Islamist movement close to Iran and which supports Hamas.

In the Red Sea, the American army announced on Sunday that it had sunk three boats of Yemeni Houthi rebels allied with the ;Iran, accused of attacking a container ship. Since the start of the war on October 7, the Houthis have shown their support for the Palestinians in Gaza by threatening traffic on this strategic sea route.

The giant Danish maritime transport company Maersk announced on Sunday the suspension for 48 hours of the transit of its fleet via this sea route.

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