Smoke rises over Gaza, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, seen from southern Israel, December 27, 2023.
Amir Cohen | Reuters
Israel sharply intensified its ground war in Gaza just before Christmas, despite public calls from its closest ally, the United States, to scale back the campaign in the final weeks of the year.
An aerial view from December 26, 2023 shows destroyed buildings in Beit Lahia following Israeli shelling in the northern Gaza Strip, amid ongoing fighting between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas.
– | Afp | Getty Images
The main focus of the fighting is now in the central areas, south of the wetlands that divide the Gaza Strip, where Israeli forces have ordered civilians out as their tanks advance.
Tens of thousands of people fleeing the sprawling districts of Nusseirat, Bureij and Maghazi in central Gaza headed south or west on Thursday toward the already submerged town of Deir al-Balah along the Mediterranean coast. , crowding into hastily constructed makeshift tent camps.
“More than 150,000 people – young children, women carrying babies, people with disabilities and the elderly – have nowhere to go,” the main UN agency operating in Gaza, UNRWA, said. in a message on social networks, denouncing what she calls a “forced displacement”. Israeli evacuation orders.
The eastern part of Bureij was the scene of heavy fighting Thursday morning, with Israeli tanks coming from the north and east, residents and activists said.
“This time has come, I wish it never happened, but it seems like moving is a necessity,” said Omar, 60, who said he was forced to move with at least 35 members of his family. family.
Gazans living in some neighborhoods of Khan Younis are moving to the southern town of Rafah after Israeli forces announced residents were leaving some neighborhoods in the southern town of Khan Younis, where Palestinians were displaced from the north of the Gaza Strip in Khan Yunis, Gaza, in December. 27, 2023.
Jehad Alshrafi | Anadolu | Getty Images
“We are now in a tent in Deir al-Balah because of this brutal Israeli war,” he told Reuters by telephone, declining to give a second name for fear of reprisals. “Israel is killing doctors, social media influencers, journalists and civilians. »
Israel says it is doing what it can to protect civilians and accuses Hamas of operating among them, which Hamas denies.
Yamen Hamad, who has lived in a school in Deir al-Balah since fleeing the north, said new refugees arriving from Bureij and Nusseirat were setting up tents wherever there was open ground.
With food running out, he said he made a perilous journey to Rafah, near the Egyptian border, to buy a 25kg bag of flour for his family.
Fighting near Khan Younis hospital
Khan Younis, the main southern city where Israeli forces advanced this month after the collapse of the truce, was the target of heavy bombardment Thursday morning by warplanes and tanks near the al-Qaeda hospital. Amal, west of the Israeli positions.
The Palestinian Red Crescent, which runs the hospital and is headquartered nearby, said 10 Palestinians were killed and 12 injured in a bombing, with the third strike targeting the area around the hospital in less than one hour.
An Israeli tank fires towards Gaza, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, on the Israel-Gaza border in southern Israel, December 27, 2023.
Amir Cohen | Reuters
Residents said they believed Israeli forces were trying to provoke a new exodus before another ground attack on the city.
Nearby at Nasser Hospital, Khan Younis’ main hospital and the largest still operating in the enclave, women and children screamed as the dead and wounded were brought in.
A toddler lay motionless on a cot as doctors tried to resuscitate him; a doctor shook his head “no,” signaling that the boy was dead.
A woman held two crying, dust-covered girls at the edge of a bed, while a baby wrapped in a bloody white shroud was placed near the legs of another body wrapped in a blanket.
Palestinian officials reported 50 people killed in strikes in Khan Younis and the central area. Israel reported three more soldiers killed in fighting in central and southern areas, bringing the death toll in the ground campaign to 169. The past week has seen some of the heaviest casualties of the war so far.
Palestinian women cry where a loved one is believed to be trapped in debris following the Israeli bombardment in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, December 21, 2023, amid continuing fighting between Israel and the militant group Hamas.
Mohammed Abed | Afp | Getty Images
Israel says it will not stop its ground campaign in Gaza until it wipes out the Hamas movement that controls the enclave. The war broke out when Hamas militants crossed the border and killed 1,200 people and captured 240 hostages in a rampage through Israeli towns on October 7.
The Israeli assault has destroyed a large part of Gaza. According to Palestinian authorities, more than 21,000 people – almost 1 percent of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents – have been confirmed killed and thousands more are believed to have died in the ruins.
Virtually all residents have been forced from their homes at least once, and many have been forced to flee several times. Only a handful of hospitals are still functioning.
Citizens queue for food cooked in large pots and distributed for free during times of war, December 28, 2023 in Rafah, Gaza.
Ahmad Hasaballah | Getty Images
Palestinians say eliminating Hamas, which has vowed to destroy Israel for decades, is an unattainable goal given the militant group’s diffuse structure and deep roots in territory it has ruled since 2007.
Israel says that since October 7, the deadliest day in its history, it has had no choice but war to safeguard its security and return more than 100 hostages still believed to be held by militants. He claims to have killed 8,000 fighters so far.
But its Western allies fear that the heavy civilian toll will radicalize a new generation of Palestinians and spread the fighting across the Middle East. This week, Iranian-backed groups attacked U.S. forces in Iraq and commercial shipping in the Red Sea.
US President Joe Biden warned this month that “indiscriminate bombing” was endangering sympathy for Israel among its allies. Washington said Israel should move from a full-scale ground war to a targeted campaign against Hamas leaders.
European countries that support Israel’s right to self-defense have taken this month to call for a lasting ceasefire, a position taken Wednesday by French President Emmanuel Macron in a phone call to the prime minister Israeli Benjamin Netanyahu.
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