At least 68 people were killed Sunday in an Israeli airstrike that hit a residential area of the Maghazi refugee camp in central Gaza, according to Palestinian health officials.
Local media from a nearby hospital reported seeing scenes of Palestinians in distress as they carried their dead, including a child, and cared for the wounded in the aftermath of the attack on the Maghazi refugee camp located east of Deir al -Balah.
Among the 68 reported victims there are at least 12 women and seven children, according to initial hospital data.
“We were all targeted,” said Ahmad Turkomani, who lost several family members, including his daughter and grandson. “In any case there is no safe place in Gaza.”
Previously, Gaza’s Ministry of Health had put the death toll at 70.
The Israeli military had no immediate comment.
As Christmas Eve fell, smoke rose over the besieged territory, while in the West Bank Bethlehem was immersed in silence and festive celebrations were interrupted.
In neighboring Egypt, attempts continued to reach an agreement on another hostage exchange for Palestinians held by Israel.
The war has devastated parts of Gaza, killed some 20,400 Palestinians and displaced nearly all of the territory’s 2.3 million people.
The growing death toll among Israeli troops stands at 156 since the start of the ground offensive. The spark was sparked when Hamas-led militants stormed communities in southern Israel on October 7, killing 1,200 people and taking 240 hostages.
The Israelis continue to largely support the country’s stated goals of annihilating Hamas’s government and military capabilities and freeing the remaining 129 prisoners. And this despite growing international pressure against the Israeli offensive, the growing number of victims and the unprecedented suffering among Palestinians.
“The war exacts a very high price on us, but we have no choice but to continue fighting,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
In a nationally televised address, Israeli President Isaac Herzog appealed for the country to remain united. “This moment is a test. We will not break or blink,” he said.
There has been widespread anger against his government, which many criticize for failing to protect civilians on October 7 and for promoting policies that allowed Hamas to gain strength, but Netanyahu has avoided taking responsibility for military failures and politicians.
The Israeli military said it had completed the dismantling of Hamas’s underground headquarters in northern Gaza, part of an operation to bring down the vast network of tunnels and kill top commanders that Israeli leaders say could take months.
Efforts towards negotiations continued.
Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Ziyad al-Nakhalah has arrived in Egypt for talks.
The militant group, which also took part in the October 7 attack, said it was willing to consider releasing the hostages only after the fighting ended. Hamas’s top leader, Ismail Haniyeh, had traveled to Cairo for talks days earlier.