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Gaza death toll continues to rise as UN chief visits Rafah crossing


The Israeli army continued attacks on Hamas targets in Gaza and dozens more Palestinians were killed as UN chief António Guterres, on a visit to the Rafah border crossing on Saturday, once again demanded an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire.”

The Israeli air force struck some 35 targets on Friday, including operational command centres, military posts and “the infrastructure of terrorist organizations,” the military said on Saturday, claiming that dozens of enemy fighters had been killed in ground battle and airstrikes in the Gaza Strip over the past day.

The information could not initially be independently verified.

In the past 24 hours, 72 Palestinians were killed and 144 more injured, according to the health authority in Gaza.

This brings the total number of Palestinian fatalities in the latest Gaza war to 32,142, plus 74,412 injured, according to the Hamas-controlled agency.

The numbers are currently impossible to verify though many more people are believed to be buried under the rubble, with rescue services unable to access them due to the ongoing fighting.

The war was triggered by the unprecedented attack carried out by Palestinian extremist organization Hamas and other militants from Gaza in southern Israel on October 7, where they killed some 1,200 people and abducted some 240 more.

Israel responded by launching a military campaign targeting Gaza by air and ground, rendering large parts of the sealed-off coastal area uninhabitable.

International criticism of Israel’s offensive has grown sharply as the humanitarian situation for Gazans deteriorates to catastrophic levels.

The UN has warned of an imminent famine.

UN Secretary General António Guterres was in Egypt on Saturday, where he also visited the Rafah border crossing to Gaza and again called for an immediate ceasefire in the months-long war.

“Now more than ever, it is time for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire,” he said in a statement after inspecting the crossing on the Egyptian side.

“It is time to silence the guns. Palestinians in Gaza, children, women, men, remain stuck in a non-stop nightmare. Communities obliterated, homes demolished, entire families and generations wiped out,” Guterres added.

Rafah is the only border crossing into the Gaza Strip that is not controlled by Israel.

Guterres earlier on Saturday met injured Palestinians at a hospital in the Egyptian Sinai city of al-Arish after they had been evacuated from the coastal strip.

“I was extremely moved by their stories, experiences and the hardships they endured,” he said.

Guterres’ visit is part of an annual trip during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

“This Ramadan I come to the Rafah crossing to spotlight the hardships and pain of Palestinians in Gaza,” the UN chief said.

The visit came a day after the UN Security Council failed to pass a US-backed resolution calling for a ceasefire in the Gaza war after Russia and China vetoed it.

Fears have grown that a planned Israeli military offensive in Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah near Egypt’s border would further exacerbate the humanitarian situation in the impoverished strip.

More than 1 million Palestinians have taken refuge in Rafah after fleeing fighting elsewhere in Gaza.

Guterres’ visit to the Egyptian side of Rafah was his second since the Gaza war broke out in October last year.

The US, Qatar and Egypt have been trying to mediate between Hamas and Israel for weeks to broker a ceasefire and facilitate the release of hostages still held in Gaza.

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