Hamas warns Zionists to free Palestinians

GAZA: Hamas warned Sunday that no captives would leave Gaza alive unless its demands for prisoner releases are met, while the World Health Organization said the territory’s health system is collapsing after more than two months of war. Hamas launched the deadliest-ever attack on the Zionist entity on Oct 7 in which it killed some 1,200 people and took around 240 captives back to Gaza.

The Zionist entity has responded with a relentless military offensive that has reduced much of Gaza to rubble and killed at least 17,997 people, mostly women and children. As aid groups warn the territory is on the brink of being overwhelmed by disease and starvation, the head of the United Nations decried a divided and “paralyzed” Security Council for failing to agree on a ceasefire.

“Gaza’s health system is on its knees and collapsing,” said World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, with only 14 of 36 hospitals functioning at any capacity. The United Nations estimates that 1.9 million of Gaza’s 2.4 million people have been displaced — roughly half of them children — many forced south and running out of safe places to go.

“We have been stuck here for 18 days. Whenever I want to go somewhere, we hear bombing and shelling and feel scared and go back,” said Noura Al-Sayed Hassan, trapped in Rafah despite having an Egyptian passport. “I’ve been searching for bread for my daughter for over a week now.” The UN humanitarian agency OCHA said only 100 aid trucks entered Gaza via the Rafah crossing with Egypt on Saturday, well below the pre-war average. “The restrictions and challenges being placed on the delivery of lifesaving aid... are another death sentence for children.”

Hamas said Sunday that the Zionist entity had launched “very violent raids” targeting the biggest southern city of Khan Yunis and the road linking it to Rafah near the border with Egypt. “Neither the fascist enemy and its arrogant leadership... nor its supporters... can take their prisoners alive without an exchange and negotiation and meeting the demands of the resistance,” Hamas spokesman Abu Obeida said in a televised broadcast.

There are still 137 captives held in Gaza, according to the Zionist entity. Activists say around 7,000 Palestinians are detained in Zionist jails, and senior Hamas official Bassem Neim said in late November that the movement was “ready to release all soldiers in exchange for all our prisoners”. On Sunday a source close to Hamas and Islamic Jihad told AFP both groups were engaged in “fierce clashes” with Zionist forces near Khan Yunis, where an AFP journalist also reported heavy strikes, as well as Jabalia and Gaza City’s Shejaiya district in the north. The Zionist army says 98 soldiers have died in the Gaza campaign and around 600 wounded have been evacuated.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the Security Council’s “authority and credibility were severely undermined”, after the United States on Friday blocked a ceasefire resolution. “I can promise, I will not give up,” Guterres told Qatar’s Doha Forum. Qatar said it was still working on a fresh truce, but that the Zionist entity’s relentless bombardment was “narrowing the window” for success.

The Gulf emirate, where Hamas’ top leadership is based, was a key mediator for a seven-day truce last month that saw 80 Zionist captives exchanged for 240 Palestinian prisoners and humanitarian aid.

The head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) voiced alarm over what he feared would be a mass expulsion of Palestinians into Egypt. In an opinion piece Saturday in the Los Angeles Times, UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini said “the developments we are witnessing point to attempts to move Palestinians into Egypt”. The fighting in Gaza has sparked protests around the world, with pro-Palestinian protests in Morocco and Turkey on Sunday. – AFP

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