“Too many lives have already been lost, and the humanitarian crisis is growing,” Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of Britain told Parliament on Monday. The convoys that have arrived in Gaza so far were not enough, he said. “We need a constant stream of aid pouring in.”
The Gaza Health Ministry, which is run by Hamas, reported a sharp rise in the death toll after Israel’s latest barrage. The ministry said on Monday at least 436 people were killed in Israeli airstrikes “in the past hours,” including 182 children.
The statement brought the death toll in Gaza to more than 5,000 people, according to the ministry, since Israel began retaliating for the Hamas assaults of Oct. 7. The figures could not be independently verified, and Israel’s military has sometimes accused Hamas of inflating the count.
Before that attack, conditions were already dire for the over two million Palestinians who live in Gaza, which was under a crushing blockade by Egypt and Israel and had faced soaring unemployment and frequent shortages of medicine and fuel.
Now, residents and aid workers say, survival in Gaza is an increasingly desperate challenge. Clean water is hard to find, and fuel nearly impossible. Medicine is dwindling and hospitals are packed with the wounded, the displaced and the dead.
After the Hamas attack this month, Israel enacted what it called a “complete siege,” barring entry of fuel, food and water. In recent days, the Israeli authorities have agreed not to block the entry of some aid convoys into Gaza by way of Egypt’s Rafah border crossing, provided there is oversight and the assistance does not reach Hamas.
Fear has been mounting for the safety of the hostages abducted from Israel, especially as Israelis learned from the military on Monday that 222 people were believed to be held captive, 10 more than previously known. The captives are believed to be scattered and hidden around Gaza, with many likely held in the tunnels and bunkers that Hamas uses beneath the territory.
On Monday night, the Israeli prime minister’s office confirmed that Hamas had released Nurit Cooper, 79, and Yocheved Lifshitz, 85. The group had also released two American-Israeli women on Friday, citing “humanitarian reasons” and mediation by Qatar.
Ms. Lifshitz and her husband, Oded, an Israeli journalist, were peace activists, family members said. Mr. Lifshitz had volunteered to drive sick Gazans seeking medical treatment in Israel from the Erez checkpoint to Israeli hospitals, according to his family.
Both women were taken captive by Hamas gunmen on Oct. 7 when they invaded Nir Oz, the kibbutz where the Lifshitzes lived. The small community of 400 was particularly hard-hit, with scores dead, missing or taken as captives to Gaza.
“My father spent his life fighting for peace,” Sharone Lifshitz, the couple’s daughter, told a news conference in London this month. “We are going to spend the rest of our lives dealing with this atrocity,” she added.
As negotiations to help the hostages have borne some fruit in recent days, Israel’s allies have also urged it to allow far more aid into Gaza, fearing a humanitarian catastrophe.