Gaza death toll tops 5,000 after hundreds of overnight Israeli air strikes

The death toll in the Gaza Strip has passed 5,000, Palestinian health authorities said Monday, after hundreds of strikes on the enclave overnight, while UN humanitarian officials repeated urgent calls for a ceasefire and more aid convoys.

The deadly assault followed Israeli officials’ warning that attacks on Gaza would increase.

In Washington, the White House said President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed Sunday that there would be a “continued flow” of critical aid, the same day a second convoy of trucks entered Gaza through the Rafah crossing from Egypt. But there was no indication about President Biden having suggested a ceasefire in the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In Geneva, UN health agency (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus issued a new appeal on Monday for “sustained safe passage” for medical essentials and fuel to keep health facilities open.

“Lives depend on these decisions,” he insisted on social platform X.

Latest media reports citing the Gaza Ministry of Health indicate that the number of people killed in Gaza since October 7 has risen to 5,087.

Women and children have made up more than 62 per cent of the fatalities, while more than 15,273 people have been injured.

In its latest humanitarian update on the Gaza-Israel crisis UN humanitarian aid coordination office, OCHA, said that more than 1,000 had been reported missing and “are presumed to be trapped or dead under the rubble”.

According to Israeli official sources quoted by OCHA, some 1,400 people have been killed in Israel, the vast majority in the Hamas attacks on October 7.

At least 212 Israeli and foreign nationals are being held captive in Gaza, the Israeli authorities have said. Two hostages were released last Friday. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has repeatedly called upon Hamas to release hostages immediately and unconditionally.

According to media reports, a new aid convoy entered Gaza from Egypt on Monday through the Rafah border crossing. This was the third such delivery after the crossing opened on Saturday for the first time since the start of the conflict, following intense diplomatic efforts.

A total of 34 trucks with aid provided by the UN and the Egyptian Red Crescent entered the enclave over the weekend.

The UN has stressed that to respond to soaring humanitarian needs, at least 100 aid trucks per day are required.

The development comes as UN agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA) warned on Sunday that it was set to run out of fuel within three days, putting the humanitarian response in Gaza at risk.

UNRWA head Philippe Lazzarini said that without fuel, “there will be no water, no functioning hospitals and bakeries” and that “no fuel will further strangle the children, women and people of Gaza”.

Meanwhile, OCHA said that more than 625,000 children in Gaza had been deprived of education for at least 12 days, and 206 schools had been damaged. At least 29 of them were UNRWA-run establishments.

UNRWA reported on Sunday that 29 of its staff members had been killed in Gaza – half of them teachers.

In the occupied West Bank, the escalation has also resulted in restrictions on the access to education. OCHA said that all the schools inside the territory were closed from October 7 to 9, affecting some 782,000 students. As of last week, over 230 schools which cater to some 50,000 students had not reopened.

By Usmana Kousar