© Reuters. A man carries a child as Palestinians search for casualties at the site of an Israeli strike on a residential building in Gaza City October 25, 2023. REUTERS/Yasser Qudih
By Nidal al-Mughrabi and Henriette Chacar
GAZA/JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel kept up its strikes on Hamas targets in Gaza as it prepared for a ground invasion while more Palestinian civilians were killed and world powers at the United Nations failed to secure plans to deliver critical humanitarian aid.
U.S. President Joe Biden, in remarks looking beyond the war that began with an Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Palestinian Hamas militants, said on Wednesday that the future should include Israeli and Palestinian states side by side.
“Israelis and Palestinians equally deserve to live side by side in safety, dignity and in peace,” Biden said at a joint press conference in Washington with visiting Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.
Biden said he believed one reason the Islamist Hamas group attacked southern Israel, killing 1,400 people and taking more than 200 hostages of different nationalities, was to prevent normalising relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Israeli retaliatory strikes have killed over 6,500 people, the health ministry in the Hamas-run strip said on Wednesday. Reuters has been unable to independently verify casualty figures.
Over 7,600 rockets have been fired towards Israel since Oct. 7 out of Gaza, according to Israeli government data, while there have been repeated clashes along the northern border.
Israel’s Magen David Adom ambulance service said two people were being treated for shrapnel and glass wounds after a rocket fired from Gaza on Wednesday night struck the central Israeli city of Rishon Letzion, south of Tel Aviv.
AID PROPOSALS FAIL IN UN SECURITY COUNCIL VOTES
At the United Nations, Russia and China vetoed a U.S.-drafted Security Council resolution calling for pauses in hostilities to allow much needed food, water and medicine to be delivered to Palestinian civilians. The United Arab Emirates also voted no, while 10 members voted in favour and two abstained.
Russia made a rival proposal that advocated a wider ceasefire, but failed to win the minimum number of votes. Israel has resisted both, arguing that Hamas would only take advantage and create new threats to Gaza civilians.
Limited deliveries of food, medicine and water from Egypt restarted on Saturday through Rafah, the only crossing not controlled by Israel.
Israel has vowed to wipe out Hamas, which rules Gaza.
“We will keep striking in Gaza in order to achieve the goals of the war,” Israeli military spokesman Daniel Hagari said. “Every strike strengthens us and improves our situation ahead of the next stages in the war.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a televised statement that Israel was “preparing for a ground invasion. I will not elaborate on when, how or how many.”
Israeli tanks and troops are massed on the border with Gaza awaiting orders. Israel has called up 360,000 reservists.
International pressure is growing to delay any invasion of Gaza, not least because of hostages. More than half the estimated 220 hostages held by Hamas have foreign passports from 25 different countries, the Israeli government said. Many were believed to have had dual Israeli nationality.
The Wall Street Journal, citing U.S. and Israeli officials, reported that Israel had agreed to delay invading Gaza for now so that the United States could rush missile defences to the region to protect U.S. forces there, reflecting its concern the Gaza war may spread to other parts of the Middle East.
U.S. officials have so far persuaded Israel to hold off until U.S. air defence systems can be placed in the region, as early as this week, the Journal said.
Asked about the report, U.S. officials told Reuters that Washington had raised its concerns with Israel that Iran and Iranian-backed Islamist groups could escalate the conflict by attacking U.S. troops in the Middle East. An Israeli incursion into Gaza could be a trigger for Iranian proxies, they said.