Palestinians Express Grief During Christmas

Palestinians Express Grief Amid Israel’s Bombardment of Gaza During Christmas

In a disheartening turn of events, Palestinians found little cause for celebration this Christmas as Israel continued its bombing campaign in Gaza, deepening the ongoing conflict that Hamas claims has resulted in over 20,000 casualties. The revered city of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank recognized as the birthplace of Jesus Christ, witnessed a subdued atmosphere with diminished festivities, as the usually bustling streets saw only a handful of worshippers and tourists.

The Gaza Strip, already grappling with extensive destruction, faced additional blows as Israeli strikes claimed at least 18 lives in the southern city of Khan Yunis, the epicenter of recent hostilities, according to the Ministry of Health. Fadi Sayegh, a resident undergoing dialysis at a Gaza hospital, expressed the pervasive sense of sorrow, stating, “There is no joy. No Christmas tree, no decorations, no family dinner, no celebrations. I pray for this war to be over soon.”

Sister Nabila Salah from the Catholic Holy Church in Gaza, where two Christian women were reportedly killed by an Israeli sniper earlier in the month, painted a bleak picture, announcing the cancellation of all Christmas celebrations. She remarked, “How do we celebrate when we are… hearing the sound of tanks and bombardment instead of the ringing of bells?”

The conflict originated when Hamas fighters attacked southern Israel on October 7, resulting in approximately 1,140 casualties, predominantly civilians, and the seizure of 250 hostages. In response, Israel, vowing to eliminate Hamas, initiated a military campaign involving extensive aerial bombardment, leading to a death toll of 20,424 people, primarily women and children, according to official figures.

Even as Pope Francis inaugurated global Christmas celebrations with a plea for peace, the dire situation in Gaza persisted. Vast areas lay in ruins, and 2.4 million people faced severe shortages of essential resources due to an Israeli siege. The United Nations reported that 80% of Gazans had been displaced, many enduring the harsh winter conditions in makeshift tents.

Filippo Grandi, head of the UN refugee agency, emphasized the urgent need for a humanitarian ceasefire, stating, “War defies logic and humanity, and prepares a future of more hatred and less peace.” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Chief of the World Health Organization, also echoed the call for a ceasefire, describing the decimation of the Gaza health system as a tragedy.

Despite acknowledging the heavy toll on soldiers, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu affirmed the necessity to continue the war, declaring it a long-term endeavor. The military reported the death of two more soldiers on Monday, bringing the total to 17 since Friday and 156 since the commencement of Israel’s ground assault on October 27.

Israeli military spokesman Jonathan Conricus indicated progress in gaining control of northern Gaza, focusing efforts on confronting Hamas in the southern part. Allegations of torture emerged from released detainees in Gaza, with about 20 men displaying signs of physical abuse, a claim denied by the Israeli military.

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