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Palestinians watch the destruction after the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip outside a morgue in Rafah, on December 19, 2023. Image Credit: AP

GAZA STRIP:  Israel launched more deadly strikes on Gaza Tuesday as the UN Security Council was due to vote on another ceasefire demand and concern mounted over the conflict’s impact on global shipping.

The UN Security Council was set to convene later Tuesday, after a one-day delay, to weigh another call for a ceasefire, after a previous bid was vetoed by the United States.

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A draft of the resolution introduced by the United Arab Emirates called for an “urgent and sustainable cessation of hostilities” in Gaza to allow “safe and unhindered humanitarian access”.

Israel has allowed limited humanitarian aid deliveries into Gaza via Egypt’s Rafah border crossing and, as of this week, through its own Kerem Shalom crossing.

One of Israel’s enemies, Yemen’s Iran-backed Al Houthi rebels, in recent weeks launched a spate of attacks on cargo ships and tankers in the Red Sea, leading the United States to announce a 10-nation naval coalition to protect the vessels.

The Houthi missile and drone strikes, while claiming no lives so far, have led several major shipping and oil firms to halt voyages through the waters that lead to the Suez Canal, a chokepoint for about 10 per cent of world trade.

Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin - who on Monday again pledged “ironclad” US support for Israel - travelled on to Qatar and joined an online conference on the naval coalition that includes warships from Britain, Canada, France and other countries.

The Huthis meanwhile warned they “will not stop” the attacks, which they say target Israel-linked vessels in a show of solidarity with the Palestinians and Islamist militant group Hamas.

Israel maintained its bombardment and ground combat on Tuesday in the third month of the bloodiest ever Gaza war, which started when Hamas launched their unprecedented attack on October 7.

The militants burst through the Gaza border fence, killed around 1,140 people in Israel, mostly civilians, and abducted 250, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.

Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry says Israel’s withering military response has killed more than 19,400 people, mostly women and children, while devastating large swathes of the coastal territory.

At least 20 more people were killed overnight in strikes on the southern Gaza city of Rafah, the ministry said, bringing more suffering to the area that has become a vast camp for displaced Palestinians.

‘Starvation’ used in war

Israel’s military said its troops found explosives planted in a medical clinic in the Gaza City suburb of Shejaiya, destroyed Hamas tunnels and killed Hamas operatives during recent operations.

The Israeli army says 131 of its troops have been killed in Gaza since it launched its ground invasion in late October.

The White House has voiced concern over the high civilian toll in Gaza, but Austin vowed Monday to keep arming Israel.

“We’ll continue to provide Israel with the equipment that you need to defend your country... including critical munitions, tactical vehicles and air defence systems,” he said.

International alarm has spiralled over the suffering brought by the war and siege for traumatised Palestinian families who have endured dire shortages of food, water, medical supplies and fuel as well as power and communications blackouts.

The New York-based campaign group Human Rights Watch charged Monday that Israel was “using starvation of civilians as a method of warfare”.

And the EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell accused Israel of displaying an “appalling lack of distinction” in its Gaza campaign.