DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israeli troops fought Palestinian militants in an urban refugee camp and outside a nearby hospital Tuesday as the army expanded its operations in northern Gaza, where residents are deprived of electricity and reliable access to water, food and to other basic necessities for weeks.
The front line of the war, now in its seventh week, has shifted to the Jabaliya refugee camp, a dense warren of concrete buildings near Gaza City that shelters families displaced during the 1948 war surrounding the creation of Israel. Israel has been bombing the area for weeks and the army said Hamas fighters had regrouped there and in other eastern districts after being driven from much of Gaza City.
Fighting also intensified outside the nearby Indonesian hospital, where Palestinian health officials said a strike killed 12 people on Monday. They said Tuesday that hundreds of patients and displaced people were stuck inside with dwindling supplies after some 200 people were evacuated the day before.
Senior Hamas officials, meanwhile, said they were close to reaching an agreement through international mediators to release some of the estimated victims. 240 people taken hostage by the group in its October 7 attack on Israel who started the war. Talks have repeatedly stalled and earlier predictions of a breakthrough proved premature.
In southern Lebanon, an Israeli strike killed two journalists with Al-Mayadeen TV, according to the pan-Arab network and Lebanese officials. There was no immediate comment from the Israeli military, which has repeatedly exchanged fire with the Hezbollah militant group since the start of the war.
SAYING CONDITIONS IN THE NORTH AND SOUTH
The war has taken a heavy toll on Palestinian civilians, particularly those remaining in the north after Israel repeatedly called on the population to flee to the south.
It is unclear how many remain behind, but the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees estimates that around 160,000 people are still in its shelters, even though it is no longer able to provide services. Some 1.7 million Palestinians, about three-quarters of Gaza’s population, have fled their homes, many congregating in U.N.-run schools and other facilities in the territory’s south.
As shelters overflowed, people were forced to sleep outside on the streets, even as winter rains battered the coastal enclave in recent days. There is shortages of food, water and fuel for generators throughout Gaza, which has been without central electricity for more than a month.
Israel continues to strike what it considers to be militant targets throughout Gaza, including in the southern evacuation zone, often killing women and children, the officials said. it could soon expand its operations in the south.
FIGHTS IN JABALIYA AND AROUND THE HOSPITALS
The Israeli military said its forces were “preparing the battlefield” in the Jabaliya area, saying they hit three tunnel shafts where fighters were hiding and destroyed rocket launchers. Footage released by the army showed Israeli soldiers patrolling on foot as gunshots rang out around them.
Residents said there had been heavy fighting as Israeli forces tried to advance under the cover of airstrikes. “The (Israeli) occupation is trying to besiege the camp,” said Hamza Abu Mansour, a university student. “They face strong resistance. »
It was not possible to independently confirm details of the fighting.
Faced with airstrikes and advancing Israeli troops, tens of thousands of Palestinians in the north took refuge in hospitals, but these were gradually emptied as the fighting reached their gates, and most did not are more operational.
The hospital situation in Gaza is “catastrophic,” Michael Ryan, a senior World Health Organization official, said Monday. In the North, “it’s the worst you can imagine.”
Munir al-Boursh, a senior Health Ministry official who said he was inside the Indonesian hospital, told Al-Jazeera television by telephone that Israeli forces had besieged it, forcing officers of health to bury 50 bodies in the courtyard. There was no immediate comment from the Israeli military.
Palestinian officials said an Israeli shell hit the hospital on Monday, killing 12 people. Israel denied bombing the hospital, but said its troops returned fire at militants who targeted them from inside.
According to the Gaza Health Ministry, up to 600 injured and some 2,000 displaced Palestinians remain stuck in hospital.
A similar standoff has occurred in recent days at Shifa Hospital, Gaza’s largest, where more than 250 patients and medical workers are stranded after the evacuation of 31 premature babies.
Israel has has provided evidence in recent days of an activist presence in Shifa. But he has yet to substantiate his claims that Hamas had a major command center beneath the facility, allegations denied by Hamas and hospital staff.
More than 12,700 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry in the West Bank. Authorities say another 4,000 people are missing. Their counts do not differentiate between civilians and combatants. Israel claims to have killed thousands of militants.
The ministry bases its count on information collected by his counterpart in Gaza, led by Hamaswhich has not been able to update the full death toll for more than 10 days due to the breakdown of services and communications in the north.
Around 1,200 people were killed on the Israeli side, mainly civilians, during the October 7 attack. The army says 68 Israeli soldiers were killed during ground operations in Gaza.
Israel, the United States and Qatar, which mediates with Hamas, have been negotiating for weeks a release of hostages that would be accompanied by a temporary ceasefire and the entry of additional aid.
Izzat Rishq, a senior Hamas official, said Tuesday that a deal could be reached “in the coming hours” in which Hamas would release the captives and Israel would release the Palestinian prisoners. Exiled Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh also said they were close to an agreement.
The Israeli war cabinet met representatives of the families of the hostages Monday evening. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the families that the government considered the release of the hostages and the defeat of Hamas to be equally important, according to a person present.
Udi Goren, whose cousin Tal Chaimi is in captivity in Gaza, said it was “incredibly disappointing” because Israel has said dismantling the militant group could take months.
Magdy reported from Cairo. Associated Press writer Melanie Lidman in Jerusalem contributed.
Full AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war.
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