US vetoes UN call for ceasefire as Israeli forces engage Hamas in close-range firefights

Gaza Strip pounded by air strikes, killing hundreds in expanded phase of war

Clashes continued without let-up across the Gaza Strip on Friday as Israel’s war against Hamas entered its third month.

The United States on Friday night vetoed a UN Security Council resolution calling for a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza. It said the proposal failed to acknowledge Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorism, subject to international law. Britain abstained in the vote, which had the support of the council’s other 13 members.

On Friday, Israeli forces engaged militants in close-range firefights in Khan Younis in the south and areas close to Gaza city. Israel also sharply increased air strikes on the strip, pounding the length of the Palestinian enclave and killing hundreds in a new, expanded phase of the war the US said veered from Israeli promises to do more to protect civilians.

The Israeli military said on Friday it had struck more than 450 targets in Gaza from land, sea and air over the past 24 hours — the most since a truce with Hamas, the militant group that runs Gaza, collapsed last week and about double the daily figures typically reported since.


Thomas White, the director of affairs for Unrwa, the UN refugee agency, warned that Gaza was on the brink of a total collapse.

Two Israeli soldiers were seriously injured on Thursday night in a failed attempt to free hostages. The raid was carried out after detailed intelligence was received on the whereabouts of some hostages taken by gunmen in the Hamas-led attack on Israel on October 7th. Israel said its commandos killed several Hamas gunmen but the hostages had already been moved to a different location.

Militants are still firing rockets from Gaza despite Israel’s military advance. Sirens were activated throughout the day across Israel. Rocket fragments fell on a car in Tel Aviv following one barrage and two projectiles landed in the sea near Tel Aviv, causing loud explosions.

Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry says that more than 17,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli operations launched in retaliation for the October 7th attack, in which 1,200 people were killed and 240 taken hostage, according to Israel. A total of 138 hostages remain in Hamas captivity.

Israel has agreed to a US request to open the Kerem Shalom border crossing for the screening and inspection of humanitarian aid delivered into Gaza via the Rafah crossing with Egypt, a move expected to significantly speed up the entry of supplies.

The decision came after US president Joe Biden told Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu in a phone call that while Washington welcomed the recent Israeli decision to ensure that fuel levels will meet requisite needs, much more assistance was “urgently required across the board”, the White House said.

US secretary of state Antony Blinken has urged Israel to do more to protect civilians, saying there is a “gap” between its promises and the reality on the ground.

Hamas accused Israeli forces on Friday of carrying out a “heinous crime against innocent civilians” after images of detained Palestinian men stripped to their underwear in Gaza circulated on social media.

Israeli government spokesman Eylon Levy said the Palestinian detainees shown in the images would be questioned to determine if they are Hamas fighters who disguised themselves as civilians.

“We’re talking about military-age men who were discovered in areas that civilians were supposed to have evacuated weeks ago,” he said.

Mr Netanyahu on Friday rejected a proposal from Palestinian prime minister Mohammad Shtayyeh calling for the Palestinian Authority to control Gaza after the war in co-operation with Hamas. “There will be no Hamas. We will eliminate it,” Mr Netanyahu said. “The mere fact that this is the Palestinian Authority’s proposal only strengthens my policy: the Palestinian Authority is not the solution.”

Six Palestinians were killed during an Israeli Defence Force (IDF) raid in the Far’a refugee camp near the West Bank city of Nablus on Friday.

Israeli defence minister Yoav Gallant on Friday signed an order to detain two Israeli settlers without trial for four months. Both men are believed to have attacked West Bank Palestinians in October and the arrests follow growing criticism from the international community over a rise in settler violence against West Bank residents since the start of the war.

Israeli leaders, including the prime minister, defence minister and president, attended Friday’s funeral of Gal Eisenkot, son of Israeli minister and former Israeli Defense Forces top general Gadi Eisenkot, who was killed on Thursday in Gaza. Almost 100 soldiers have been killed in the IDF ground operation to date but the count is still significantly lower than some pessimistic pre-war forecasts, which warned that many hundreds of soldiers could be killed. — Additional reporting: Reuters

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss is a contributor to The Irish Times based in Jerusalem