Death Toll in Gaza Continues to Rise as Bodies Pulled From Rubble

Jack Khoury
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This aerial view taken on May 21, 2021, shows the Al-Shorooq building in Gaza City, that was levelled by an Israeli air strike during the recent military conflict between Israel and the Palestinian enclave ruled by Hamas, after a ceasefire brokered by Egypt. - A ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, the Islamist movement which controls the Gaza Strip, appeared to hold today after 11 days of deadly fighting that pounded the Palestinian enclave and forced countless Israelis to seek shelter from rockets
Al-Shorooq building in Gaza City, that was levelled by an Israeli air strike, todayCredit: Mahmud Hams/AFP
Jack Khoury

Gazans continued to extract bodies from the rubble on Friday, following Thursday's cease-fire which put an end to 11 days of fighting. In the Gaza Strip, officials estimate that it will take several weeks to ascertain the final death toll.

On Friday morning, the body of an infant was pulled from the rubble in Gaza City, and the bodies of nine members of Hamas' military branch who were apparently trapped when Israel exploded the organization's underground tunnels near Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip. According to reports in Gaza, the nine Hamas officials were killed on May 11, and the fighting prevented the recovery of their bodies.

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The bodies were added to the death toll of Palestinians killed in Israeli strikes. The Health Ministry in Gaza reported on Friday morning that the death toll had risen to 243, and that it is expected to continue rising. Of those killed, 66 are children, 39 are women and 17 were seniors. The Health Ministry added that the number of people injured in Israeli strikes had risen to 1,910.

Overnight on Thursday, Gazans celebrated the ceasefire, which was seen as a victory for Hamas, which proved its tenacity and refusal to be the first to relent and end its rocket fire toward Israel. However, the celebration was mixed with pain and astonishment as the end of the fighting revealed the extent of the destruction. A medical source told Haaretz that clearing the rubble will take months, and that there are still buildings in Gaza that were damaged in the 2014 war with Israel that have yet to be repaired.

Meanwhile, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh announced that the Palestinian Authority will lodge a complaint with the International Criminal Court at the Hague, claiming that Israel is responsible for war crimes in their killing of entire families. According to Shtayyeh, Israel is responsible for crimes against women and children in this cycle of fighting, as well as the three escalations prior to it. The statement said that 20 families in Gaza have been completely eradicated by Israeli aggression. The ICC already announced in February that it would investigate Israel for three counts of war crimes: in the 2014 Gaza war, in its operations at the Gaza border in 2018, and its ongoing policy of settlement construction.

A delegation from Egypt also arrived in Gaza on Friday afternoon to speak with senior Hamas officials and other Palestinian factions. The delegation held discussions regarding the cease-fire and the rehabilitation of Gaza following this round of violence, which did several billion dollars of damage.

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