Gaza Health Ministry says Palestinian death toll has crossed 29,000

Israel’s assault in Gaza has killed more than 29,000 Palestinians since October 7, the territory’s Health Ministry said.

It comes after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to continue the offensive until “total victory” against Hamas after the militants’ October 7 attack on Israeli communities.

He and the military have said troops will move soon into the southernmost town of Rafah on the Egyptian border, where more than half of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have sought refuge from fighting elsewhere.

The United States, Israel’s top ally, says it is still working with mediators Egypt and Qatar to try to broker another ceasefire and hostage release agreement.

(PA Graphics)

The conflict has also brought near daily exchanges of fire between Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group that frequently threaten to escalate.

Israeli warplanes on Monday carried out at least two strikes near the southern port city of Sidon in one of the largest attacks near a major city, Lebanese state media said.

The attack left 14 people wounded, Lebanese state media said.

In Gaza, the Health Ministry said the death toll had risen to 29,092 since the start of the war, around two-thirds of them women and children.

More than 69,000 Palestinians have been wounded, overwhelming the territory’s hospitals, less than half of which are even partially functioning.

The ministry does not distinguish between civilians and combatants in its count.

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Palestinian crowds struggle to buy bread from a bakery in Rafah (Fatima Shbair/AP)

Its figures from previous wars in Gaza have largely matched those of UN agencies, independent experts and Israel’s own tallies.

Israel says it has killed more than 10,000 Palestinian militants but has provided no evidence for its count.

The military says it tries to avoid harming civilians and blames the high death toll on Hamas because the militant group fights in dense residential neighbourhoods.

The military says 236 of its soldiers have been killed since the start of the ground offensive in late October.

The war has driven around 80% of the Palestinians in Gaza from their homes and has left a quarter of the population starving, according to UN officials.

The United States says it is still pushing for a truce and hostage release, and that it would veto a UN Security Council resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire because it conflicts with those efforts.

In an interview with Al-Jazeera, Hamas senior official Khalil al-Haya repeated the group’s demands for releasing the remaining hostages — an end to Israel’s assault, the withdrawal of its troops from Gaza and the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, including top militants.

He also said regional stability hinges on the establishment of a fully sovereign Palestinian state.

Mr Netanyahu has rejected the demands.

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