Israeli airstrikes kill dozens in one of war's deadliest nights, Gaza officials say
Israeli airstrikes killed at least 78 people in Gaza, Palestinian health officials said, in one of the besieged enclave's deadliest nights of Israel's 11-week-old battle with Hamas.
Strikes that began hours before midnight persisted into Christmas Day on Monday. Residents and Palestinian media said Israel stepped up air and ground shelling against al-Bureij in central Gaza.
Pope Francis lamented that Jesus' message of peace was being drowned out by the "futile logic of war" in the very land where he was born.
At least 70 people were killed in an Israeli airstrike targeting Maghazi in central Gaza, health ministry spokesperson Ashraf Al-Qidra said, adding that many were women and children.
The Israeli army said it was reviewing the report of a Maghazi incident and was committed to minimising harm to civilians. Hamas denies the Israeli charge that it operates in densely populated areas or uses civilians as human shields.
The Palestinian Red Crescent published footage of wounded residents being transported to hospitals. It said Israeli warplanes were bombing main roads, hindering the passage of ambulances and emergency vehicles.
Medics said an Israeli airstrike in Khan Younis in southern Gaza killed eight Palestinians.
Clergy cancelled celebrations in Bethlehem, the Israeli-occupied Palestinian West Bank city where Christian tradition says Jesus was born in a stable 2,000 years ago.
"Tonight, our hearts are in Bethlehem, where the Prince of Peace is once more rejected by the futile logic of war, by the clash of arms that even today prevents him from finding room in the world," the pope said, presiding at Christmas Eve Mass in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.
Palestinian Christians held a candle-lit Christmas vigil in Bethlehem with hymns and prayers for peace in Gaza, instead of the usual celebrations.
There was no large tree, the usual centrepiece of Bethlehem's Christmas observances. Nativity figurines in churches were placed amid rubble and barbed wire in solidarity with the people of Gaza.