More than 20,000 people have now been killed in Gaza since the start of the war, according to Gaza's Ministry of Health. Above, a home in Rafah is shown in the aftermath of an Israeli airstrike. Anas Baba/NPR

Gaza health officials say Israel’s offensive has now killed more than 20,000 people

By Frank Langfitt |

RAMALLAH, West Bank — Israel’s devastating air-and-ground assault on Gaza has now killed more than 20,000 people in the 10 weeks since the conflict began, according to Gaza’s Ministry of Health — a figure that is fast approaching 1% of the Palestinian territory’s pre-war population.

The ministry, in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, said Friday that at least 20,057 people have died from the Israeli attacks since Oct. 7. It has said 70% of those killed are women and children.

Although the health ministry doesn’t differentiate between civilian and combatant deaths, it says the majority of those killed have been women and children. Another 50,000 people in Gaza have been wounded, the Hamas-controlled ministry says. International aid groups generally agree with its tallies.

A death toll of 20,000 in the enclave, where the population is estimated at roughly 2.1 million, means around 1 out of every 105 people has been killed since the war began.

As the death toll continues to rise, Israel faces growing international pressure to end the bombing of Gaza. Even the Biden administration, which has firmly backed Israel’s stated goal of crushing Hamas, has repeatedly admonished Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to minimize civilian casualties.

Among those whose lives have been shattered by Israel’s bombardment is Yousef Es-Sakani. He sits on the edge of a planter under a tree in the center of Ramallah, a bustling, traffic-choked city in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and tries to make sense of Israeli airstrikes earlier this month in Gaza that suddenly added most of his family to the war’s staggering death toll.

In the early morning hours of Dec. 9, he says, his wife, four daughters and two of his sons were killed by Israeli airstrikes that flattened their four-story Gaza City apartment building. A third son only survived because he stayed with an aunt the night of the attack.

“One of the ones killed is my daughter, she had one semester left to graduate to become a doctor,” he says.

Yousef Es-Sakani is trying to make sense of the airstrike in Gaza City earlier this month that killed his wife, four daughters and two of his sons.

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