Israel strikes central Gaza killing 68 people

At least 68 people were killed by an Israeli strike in central Gaza, while the number of Israeli soldiers killed in combat over the weekend rose to 15. The Israeli military had no immediate comment.

As Christmas Eve fell, smoke rose over the besieged territory, while in the West Bank Bethlehem was hushed, its holiday celebrations called off. In neighboring Egypt, tentative efforts continued on a deal for another exchange of hostages for Palestinians held by Israel.

Israelis still largely stand behind the country’s stated goals of crushing Hamas’ governing and military capabilities and releasing the remaining 129 captives.

That's despite rising international pressure against Israel’s offensive, the soaring death toll, and unprecedented suffering among Palestinians.

Efforts toward negotiations continued. The head of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Ziyad al-Nakhalah, arrived in Egypt for talks. The militant group, which also took part in the Oct. 7 attack, said it was prepared to consider releasing hostages only after the fighting ends. Hamas’ top leader Ismail Haniyeh traveled to Cairo for talks days earlier.

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