Fuel running low, raising concerns for Gaza hospitals, refugee camps
- Israel continues striking Gaza; military says it destroyed some Hamas tunnels.
- Fighting also reported in West Bank and near Syria, Lebanon borders.
- Western countries call for humanitarian pause to strikes in Gaza.
- Hospitals, shelters in Gaza 'overwhelmed.'
- Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad officials meet, pledge to co-operate.
The UN warned on Wednesday that it is on the verge of running out of fuel in the Gaza Strip, forcing it to sharply curtail relief efforts in the territory blockaded and hit by devastating Israeli airstrikes since Hamas militants launched an attack on Israel more than two weeks ago.
The warning came as hospitals in Gaza struggled to treat masses of wounded with dwindling resources, and health officials in the Hamas-ruled territory said the death toll was soaring as Israeli jets continued striking the territory. Workers pulled dead and wounded civilians, including many children, out of landscapes of rubble in cities across the territory.
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The Israeli military, which accuses Hamas of operating among civilians, said its strikes killed militants and destroyed military targets. Hamas and other militants have fired unrelenting rocket barrages into Israel since the current conflict started.
Israel's military also said it targeted a cell of Hamas divers attempting to enter Israel by sea near Zikim kibbutz. There was no immediate comment from Hamas on the incident.
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Israel said Tuesday it had launched 400 airstrikes over the past day, an increase from the 320 strikes the day before.
The fighting has killed more than 1,400 people in Israel — mostly civilians slain during the initial Hamas attack on Oct. 7, including several Canadians. Hamas is also holding over 200 people that it captured and brought back to Gaza, with four hostages released so far.
Qatari mediators are urging Hamas to quicken the pace of hostage releases to include women and children and to do so without expecting Israeli concessions, said three diplomats and a source in the region familiar with the talks.
The Gulf state, in co-ordination with the U.S., is leading mediation talks with Hamas and Israel over the hostage release.
Calls for humanitarian pause
At the United Nations, the United States and Russia put forward rival plans on humanitarian aid for Palestinian civilians. Washington has called for pauses in the fighting and Russia wants a humanitarian ceasefire. A pause, which the Canadian government backs, is generally considered less formal and shorter than a ceasefire.
Arab states firmly back a call for a humanitarian ceasefire amid widespread destruction in Gaza.
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Across central and south Gaza, where Israel told civilians to take shelter, there were multiple scenes of rescuers pulling the dead and wounded out of large piles of rubble from collapsed buildings. Graphic photos and video shot by The Associated Press showed rescuers unearthing bodies of children from multiple ruins.
At a mosque in Deir Al-Balah, workers prayed over 24 dead wrapped in body bags, several of them the size of small children. Buildings that collapsed on residents killed dozens at a time in several cases, witnesses said.
Gaza's population has been running out of food, water and medicine, under Israel's seal. About 1.4 million of Gaza's 2.3 million residents have fled their homes, with nearly half of them crowded into UN shelters.
In recent days, Israel allowed a small number of trucks filled with aid to come over the border with Egypt but barred deliveries of fuel — needed to power hospital generators — to keep it out of Hamas's hands.
The UN said it had managed to deliver some of the aid in recent days to hospitals treating the wounded. But the United Nations Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA) in Gaza, the largest provider of humanitarian services there, said it would run out of fuel by Wednesday night.
Officials said they were forced to reduce their operations as they rationed their remaining fuel.
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"Without fuel our trucks cannot go around to further places in the strip for distribution," said Lily Esposito, an agency spokesperson. "We will have to make decisions on what activities we keep or not with little fuel."
"Our shelters are four times over their capacities — many people are sleeping in the streets as current facilities are overwhelmed," UNRWA posted on X.
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Meanwhile, more than half of Gaza's primary health-care facilities, and roughly one-third of its hospitals, have stopped functioning, the World Health Organization said.
Overwhelmed hospital staff struggled to triage cases as constant waves of wounded were brought in.
The Health Ministry in Gaza says more than 6,546 Palestinians have been killed in the war. The figure includes the disputed toll from an explosion at a hospital last week. The Associated Press could not independently verify the death tolls cited by Hamas, which says it tallies figures from hospital directors.
Hezbollah, Hamas leaders meet
The conflict threatened to spread across the region. The Israeli military said it struck military sites in Syria in response to rocket launches from the country. Syrian state media said eight soldiers were killed and seven wounded.
Strikes also hit the airports of the Syrian city of Aleppo and Damascus, in an apparent attempt to prevent arms shipments from Iran to militant groups, including Lebanon's Hezbollah.
Israel has been exchanging near daily fire with Iranian-backed group Hezbollah across the Lebanese border.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah met with top Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad officials and discussed what their alliance must do to "achieve a real victory for the resistance and to halt the brutal aggression," Hezbollah said Wednesday.
"There was agreement on continuing the co-ordination," Hezbollah said.
Fighting also erupted in the West Bank, which has seen a major spike in violence. Islamic Jihad militants said they fought with Israeli forces in Jenin overnight. The Palestinian Health Ministry in the West Bank said Israel killed three Palestinians in Jenin and two others in other towns, bringing the total number of those killed in the occupied West Bank since Oct. 7 to 101.
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