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Netanyahu says dozens of Hamas militants surrendering; Blinken defends veto on UN cease-fire resolution: Updates

Editor's Note: For the latest news on the Israel-Hamas conflict, please see our live updates file here.

Dozens of militants have surrendered in recent days as the Israeli military intensifies its military effort to crush Hamas and kill its leadership, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday.

Netanyahu said the world is seeing "the beginning of the end" for Hamas and its leader, Yahya Sinwar.

"They lay down their weapons and surrender themselves to our heroic warriors," Netanyahu said in a video broadcast. "It will take more time, the war is in full swing, (but) I say to the Hamas terrorists it is over. Don't die for Sinwar. Surrender − now."

Hamas issued a statement saying Israel was detaining unarmed civilians and surrounding them with weapons in a "desperate and transparent ploy" to give the appearance that the resolve of the militants was fading.

Netanyahu's bold prediction came two days after the U.N. Security Council's latest, historic resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire was vetoed by the U.S. Israel and its most supportive ally are finding fewer global backers as the Palestinian death toll continues to rise.

On Sunday, the U.N. General Assembly scheduled an emergency meeting Tuesday to vote on a draft resolution expected to be similar to the one the U.S. vetoed. General Assembly resolutions can't be vetoed but aren't legally binding either.

People watch the sunset near the beach ahead of candle lighting on the fourth night of Hanukkah on December 10, 2023 in Tel Aviv, Israel.
People watch the sunset near the beach ahead of candle lighting on the fourth night of Hanukkah on December 10, 2023 in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Developments:

∎ Tzachi Hanegbi, the head of Israel's National Security Council, said Palestinian detainees are stripped to their underwear when arrested for security concerns. Photos showing the stripped men drew protest from Human Rights Watch and other advocacy groups.

∎ U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said living conditions in Gaza are so dire, with a shortage of food, water, fuel, and safe places, "Expect public order to completely break down soon, and an even worse situation could unfold including epidemic diseases and increased pressure for mass displacement into Egypt."

∎ Hamas encouraged workers worldwide to join a general strike called for Monday in Gaza, urging the "free people of the world to participate in the strike in protest against the Israeli occupation’s genocidal war and atrocities against civilians" in Gaza.

∎ The Israeli military said its fighter jet attack "eliminated" Hamas battalion commander Emad Karika, who had led Hamas forces in the Shejaiya neighborhood of Gaza City after his predecessor was killed earlier in the war.

Israel strikes in Gaza continue: US vetoes unusual UN cease-fire resolution

Blinken defends US veto, says cease-fire would 'perpetuate the problem'

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, making the rounds at Sunday morning news shows, defended the U.S. veto of a cease-fire resolution before the U.N. General Assembly.

Blinken, speaking on ABC's "This Week," said the Biden administration was "deeply aware of the terrible human toll" the war was taking on civilians, including women and children. But he said Israel's effort to eliminate Hamas was a legitimate goal.

The militant group could end the bloodbath if it stopped fighting and "got out of the way of civilians instead of hiding behind them," he said.

"When it comes to a cease-fire in this moment, with Hamas still alive, still intact, and again, with the stated intent of repeating Oct. 7 again and again and again, that would simply perpetuate the problem," Blinken added.

Netanyahu unhappy with Russia's 'anti-Israel' positions

Russia, which has maintained a working relationship with Israel as it fights its war in Ukraine, voted in favor of the U.N. resolution calling for a cease-fire. Israeli authorities were not pleased.

Netanyahu spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday and shared his dissatisfaction with Moscow's “anti-Israel positions” at the U.N. and elsewhere, Israel said in a statement. Netanyahu also made the case to Putin that any country attacked the way Israel was by Hamas on Oct. 7 "would have reacted with no less force than Israel is using," the statement said.

The countries have a complicated relationship, impacted by their alliances with major players such as the U.S. and Iran, a supplier of attack drones Russia has repeatedly used against Ukraine. Iran not only supports Hamas but also other anti-Israel militant groups like Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Considering that and Israel's close ties to the U.S., it would be logical to expect the Israelis to join the American efforts to arm Ukraine, but they haven't. The reason is they need cooperation from the Russians in Syria, where Moscow wields considerable clout and Iran-backed militias pose a threat to neighboring Israel.

WHO urges warring parties to protect civilians, health workers

The World Health Organization adopted a resolution Sunday calling for "immediate, sustained and unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief, including the access of medical personnel" into Gaza. It calls on all parties to fulfill international humanitarian law obligations aimed at protecting civilians and medical personnel during war.

WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the resolution was a starting point and urged all U.N. member states to work toward ending the conflict as soon as possible.

"It is a platform on which to build," Tedros said. "Without a cease-fire, there is no peace. And without peace, there is no health."

Gaza tragedy by the numbers

The Gaza Strip is a sliver of land less than 25 miles long and 7 miles wide. More than 2 million Palestinians live there, but the U.N. refugees agency says almost 90% of them have fled their homes amid the pounding Israeli bombardment and land assault since Oct. 7.

The agency said last week that almost 1.2 million internally displaced Palestinians were sheltering in 151 UN installations. Four of those, in and around the southern Gaza city of Kahn Younis, were evacuated last week at the instruction of the Israeli army.

UNRWA, the U.N. agency for Palestinian aid, said more than 130 of its workers have been killed since the war began. The Gaza Ministry of Health says nearly 18,000 Palestinians have been reported killed in Gaza, about 70% of them women and children.

More than 1,200 Israelis and foreign nationals have been killed in the war, according to Israeli authorities, the vast majority of them the day Hamas attacked. Close to 120 hostages, along with the remains of 20 people killed since the war started, are being held by Hamas, Netanyahu’s office said.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Israel Hamas live updates: Netanyahu says Hamas militants surrendering