Gaza’s Hamas government said Sunday that the death toll from fighting between Israeli troops and Hamas militants in the Palestinian territory had reached 13,000 since the war began on October 7. Hamas gunmen killed around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and captured around 240 more as hostages, according to Israel, when they surged over the militarised Gaza border.
AFP reports that the Hamas government said more than 5,500 children were among the dead, alongside 3,500 women, with 30,000 more people wounded. Its health ministry has previously said it can no longer give exact tolls as intense fighting has prevented bodies from being recovered.
The White House on Sunday however said it was looking into the devastating blast at a United Nations-run school and shelter in northern Gaza, an official said. According to CNN, Washington is gathering information about Saturday’s strikes on the UN-run school that was used as a shelter in Gaza, Deputy National Security Adviser, Jon Finer, said on Sunday.
“What I can say at this point — and we’re also in touch with the Israelis to try to find out what they know about what happened — is that, if harm was done to innocent civilians sheltering at a UN site, that would be totally unacceptable,” Finer said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Sunday that he was “deeply shocked” that two UN schools were struck in less than 24 hours in the Gaza Strip, killing and injuring dozens of people – many women and children – “as they were seeking safety in United Nations premises.”
“Hundreds of thousands of Palestinian civilians are seeking shelter at United Nations facilities throughout Gaza due to the intensified fighting. I reaffirm that our premises are inviolable,” Guterres said in a statement, according to Jerusalem Post.
A spokesperson for the UN Relief and Works Agency, which runs the schools in Palestinian refugee camps and serves as the main UN relief agency in Gaza, confirmed the strike on Saturday. It was the second time in 24 hours a UNRWA school in northern Gaza was struck, the agency said, as leaders and human rights workers raised concerns over the scale of civilians killed in Israel’s assault on the Palestinian enclave.
The Prime Minister of Qatar, a mediator who has helped broker talks to free Hamas’ hostages in Gaza in return for a ceasefire, said on Sunday “the challenges that remain in the negotiations are very minor,” but did not provide details or a timeline.
“I think that I’m now more confident that we are close enough to reach a deal that can bring the people safely back to their homes,” said Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani. US Deputy National Security Adviser Jon Finer told NBC they were “closer than we have been in quite some time” to securing a deal. But he added on CBS, “The mantra that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed really does apply.”
Meanwhile, Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Sunday said the defense establishment had noted a growing trend of “Iran pushing for militia attacks against Israel using its proxies in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen.” Jerusalem Post reports that although Yemen and Syrian proxies of the Islamic Republic have both attacked the Jewish state several times since Operation Swords of Iron began, to date, Iraq has gone under the radar, and most proxy attacks have been against the US. “We are following these trends, and will know the right time, place, and intensity with which to act,” said Gallant.