Israel has vowed to annihilate the militant group Hamas in retaliation for a rampage by its fighters in Israeli towns eight days ago in which its militants shot men, women and children and seized hostages in the worst attack on civilians in the country’s history.
Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu told troops in southern Israel on Saturday that “the next stage is coming”.
On Sunday, Mr Netanyahu convened Israel’s expanded emergency cabinet for the first time, saying the national unity on display sent a message at home and abroad as the country gears up to “demolish Hamas” in Gaza.
The meeting, held in military headquarters in Tel Aviv, began with ministers standing for a moment’s silence in memory of the 1,300 Israelis killed in Hamas’s shock October 7th attack, a video released by Mr Netanyahu’s office showed.
The death toll in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank reached 2,383 Palestinians dead and 10,814 injured on Sunday morning, according to Palestinian health ministry sources. The conflict between Hamas and Israel started on October 7th, with mobile phone video footage and reports from medical and emergency services of atrocities in the overrun towns and kibbutzes.
Israel responded by subjecting Gaza to the most intense bombardment it has ever seen, putting the small enclave, home to 2.3 million Palestinians, under total siege and destroying much of its infrastructure.
Pope Francis, pictured right, on Sunday called for humanitarian corridors to help those under siege in Gaza and renewed his appeal for the release of hostages held by Hamas. Picture by Bill Heaney
“I strongly ask that the children, the sick, the elderly, women and all civilians do not become victims of the conflict,” the Pope said during his weekly address to the crowds in St. Peter’s square. “Humanitarian right must be respected, above all in Gaza.”
US secretary of state Antony Blinken met Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh, a US official said, as he works with regional allies to prevent the war from spiralling into a bigger conflict, and help win release of the hostages.
Mr Netanyahu’s government also told the militant group Hizbullah, which neighbours Israel to the north, not to start a war on a second front, threatening the “destruction of Lebanon” if it did.
On Sunday, a senior Israeli official accused Iran of trying to open such a second front by deploying weapons in or through Syria, in a response to a post on social media platform X that posited such a scenario. “They (Iranians) are,” wrote Joshua Zarka, head of strategic affairs for Israel’s foreign ministry.
Iran’s mission to the United Nations warned late on Saturday that if Israel’s “war crimes and genocide” were not halted immediately, “the situation could spiral out of control” and have far-reaching consequences.
Hamas and Hizbullah are backed by Iran.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, meeting Iran’s foreign minister on Saturday in Qatar, discussed the Palestinian group’s attack in Israel “and agreed to continue co-operation” to achieve the group’s goals, Hamas said in a statement.
The Israeli military said that in an air strike in Khan Younis it killed a commander of Hamas’s elite Nukhba Force who led the October 7th attack on the two Israeli border villages of Nirim and Nir Oz.
US president Joe Biden , left, and other world leaders warned against any country broadening the conflict. International organisations and aid groups urged calm and pressed Israel to allow humanitarian assistance to get through.
In New York, Russia asked the UN Security Council to vote on Monday on a draft resolution on the Israel-Hamas conflict that calls for a humanitarian ceasefire and condemns violence against civilians and all acts of terrorism.
Mr Biden called Netanyahu on Saturday and, while reiterating “unwavering” support for Israel, discussed international co-ordination to ensure innocent civilians have access to water, food and medical care.
Mr Biden also spoke with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, who stressed the urgent need to allow humanitarian aid corridors in Gaza.
The US Department of Defence said the Eisenhower aircraft carrier strike group would start moving towards the eastern Mediterranean to join another carrier strike group already there.
On Friday, the Israeli military told residents of the northern half of the Gaza Strip, which includes the enclave’s biggest settlement, Gaza City, to move south immediately.
On Saturday, it said it would guarantee the safety of Palestinians fleeing on two main roads until 4pm. Troops were massing as the deadline passed.
Hamas told people not to leave, saying roads out were unsafe. It said dozens of people had been killed in strikes on cars and trucks carrying refugees on Friday. Reuters could not independently verify this claim. – Reuters
Top picture: The UK has sent auxiliary ships to the conflict zone in the Middle East.
Thousands have marched through the streets of Glasgow as part of pro-Palestine protests across Scotland.
Organised by the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC), demonstrators met at 14:00 in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee.
The group said the purpose of the gatherings was to condemn the government of Israel and express solidarity with the Palestinian people.
Protests took place across the UK, including in London and Manchester.
It comes a week after Hamas launched an unprecedented attack on Israel.
Fighters from the the Palestinian militant group entered communities near the Gaza Strip, killing at least 1,300 people.
In Glasgow, protesters met on the Buchanan Street steps before marching to BBC Scotland headquarters at Pacific Quay.
Bath Street had to be closed due to the number of people attending the demonstration – Glasgow City Council officials confirmed the street later reopened.
Police Scotland said it was engaging with national partners to ensure communities were safe.
A spokesperson added: “Our priority is public safety and we will have an appropriate policing plan in place to facilitate peaceful protest and minimise disruption to our communities.”
The force later confirmed there had been no arrests in Scotland over the protests.
The Scottish government has pledged a £500,000 aid package to help the UN set up a humanitarian corridor.
Christina McKelvie, international development minister, said the funds would support “people who are caught up in the conflict who are innocent civilians.”
Israel has told everyone in the north of the Gaza Strip – about 1.1 million people – to relocate to the south of the territory within 24 hours.
The UN said this is not possible and asked Israel to withdraw the order, warning of “devastating humanitarian consequences”.