Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Meshal Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah (right) met UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at Bayan palace in Kuwait City on May 12. (Photo by KUNA / AFP) / === RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / HO / KUNA" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS === Image Credit: AFP

KUWAIT CITY: A conference of international donors in Kuwait on Sunday pledged over $2 billion to aid the devastated Gaza Strip over seven months into the war between Israel and Hamas.

The conference, organised by the International Islamic Charitable Organization (IICO) and the UN’s humanitarian coordination agency OCHA, said the funds would be dispersed over two years, with the possibility of extension, in efforts to support life-saving humanitarian interventions in the Palestinian territory.

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The pledges come as Israel struck Gaza and troops were battling militants in several areas of the Hamas-run territory, where the health ministry said the death toll in the war had exceeded 35,000 people.

More than seven months into the Israel-Hamas war, UN chief Antonio Guterres urged “an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, the unconditional release of all hostages and an immediate surge in humanitarian aid” into the besieged Gaza Strip.

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“But a ceasefire will only be the start,” Guterres told a donor conference in Kuwait. “It will be a long road back from the devastation and trauma of this war.”

As Egyptian, Qatari and US mediation efforts towards a truce appeared to stall, US President Joe Biden said on Saturday a ceasefire could be achieved “tomorrow” if Hamas released the hostages held in Gaza since the October 7 attack that sparked the conflict.

AFP correspondents, witnesses and medics said Israeli air strikes pounded parts of northern, central and southern Gaza during the night and into Sunday morning.

The Israeli military said its jets had hit “over 150 terror targets throughout the Gaza Strip” over the past day.

In Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost city which sits on the border with Egypt, the Kuwaiti hospital said Sunday it had received the bodies of “18 martyrs” killed in Israeli strikes over the past 24 hours.

The health ministry in the territory said that at least 63 people had been killed over the last 24 hours, bringing the overall death toll from Israel’s bombardment and offensive in Gaza to at least 35,034 people, mostly women and children.

The war began with Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack on Israel, which resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

The militants also seized hostages, of whom scores were freed during a one-week truce in November. Israel estimates 128 captives remain in Gaza, including 36 who the military says are dead.