Israel’s ground offensive in Gaza will expand over the coming days, Benjamin Netanyahu has warned, as attacks appeared to intensify on Christmas Day.
But despite international efforts to halt the fighting, Israel’s prime minister told members of his Likud Party the war “isn’t close to finished”.
“We are not stopping. We are continuing to fight and we are expanding the fight in the coming days,” Mr Netanyahu said.
The fighting is “not close to concluding”, he said.
“There will be a long battle,” he added.
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Israel “wouldn’t have succeeded” in releasing more than 100 hostages – taken by Hamas from southern Israel on 7 October – without its military pressure, with 129 thought still to be captive in Gaza, Mr Netanyahu argued.
Diplomatic efforts on a new truce to free the remaining hostages have yielded little public progress so far, as Egypt and Qatar mediate talks.
According to two Egyptian security sources, Hamas and the allied Islamic Jihad have rejected a proposal to relinquish power in the Gaza Strip in return for a permanent ceasefire.
Both groups, which have been holding separate talks with Egyptian mediators in Cairo, rejected offering any concessions beyond the possible release of more hostages.
Egypt proposed elections while offering assurances to Hamas that its members would not be chased or prosecuted.
Meanwhile, Israel continues to bombard the Palestinian enclave, with residents claiming fighting has only escalated in northern districts – where Israel says it has gained control.
The Hamas-led Gaza health ministry reports 20,674 people have been killed and 54,536 injured in Israeli strikes since 7 October. Around 1,200 Israelis were killed by Hamas raiders that day.
Israel’s response to 7 October has compounded what a Red Cross aid worker described as an “unprecedented” year of human devastation around the world, citing earthquakes, floods and conflict.
Rory Moylan described a “desperate situation” in Gaza, where colleagues have told of children becoming sick as they face winter without proper clothing, having fled their homes.
As the Israeli military assault continues, the UN has warned that more than half a million people in Gaza are starving due to “woefully insufficient” quantities of food entering the territory.
The vast majority of the 2.3 million Gazans have been driven from their homes, and the UN says conditions are catastrophic.