March 2, 2024

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Occupation tanks arrive in the center of the city of Khan Yunis in a new incursion into southern Gaza

  • The latest developments:
  • Netanyahu calls on Hamas fighters to surrender
  • Palestinian detainees claim to have been subjected to violations

GAZA/CAIRO (Reuters) – Israeli tanks made their way into the heart of Khan Yunis on Sunday in a new major incursion into the main city in the southern Gaza Strip, while health authorities in the Hamas-run enclave said about 18,000 Palestinians had been killed. In the war.

Israeli leaders said that dozens of Hamas fighters surrendered, and encouraged more of them to do so, but the Palestinian armed group denied this and described this claim as “false and baseless.”

Residents of Khan Yunis said that the tanks reached the main road linking north and south through the city after intense fighting throughout the night that slowed the Israeli advance from the east. Warplanes bombed the area west of the attack.

The air shook with the constant sound of explosions and thick columns of white smoke rose above the densely populated city crowded with people displaced from elsewhere in the enclave.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who unsuccessfully pushed for a ceasefire in Gaza, said the Strip was in a state of collapse. He added: “I expect public order to completely collapse soon, and a worse situation may unfold including epidemic diseases and increasing pressure for a mass exodus to Egypt.”

Earlier on Sunday, near a police station in the city centre, automatic weapons fire could be heard. The streets were deserted by morning, and only an old woman and a girl remained riding a donkey cart.

A father of four children who was displaced from Gaza City and is taking refuge in Khan Yunis told Reuters, “It was one of the most horrific nights. The resistance was very strong and we could hear gunshots and explosions that did not stop for hours.” He refused to reveal his identity for fear of retaliation.

On the other side of the Gaza Strip, in northern areas where Israel previously said its forces had largely completed their missions, residents also described some of the heaviest fighting of the war so far.

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“I dare say it is the strongest battle we have heard in weeks,” said Nasser (59 years old), a father of seven who lives in Jabalia after his home in Beit Lahia, another northern area, was destroyed. Explosions were heard as he spoke. “We will not leave Jabalia no matter what. We will die here as martyrs or they will leave us alone.”

Israel vowed to eliminate Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2007, after the militants stormed the fence on October 7 and unleashed violence across Israeli towns, gunning down families in their homes, killing 1,200 people and taking 240 hostage.

Gaza health authorities say about 18,000 people have been confirmed killed and 49,500 others injured in the Israeli raids, with thousands more missing and presumed dead under the rubble. The toll no longer includes numbers from the northern parts of the Strip, which are beyond the reach of ambulances and where hospitals have stopped working.

Who is alive?

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that dozens of Hamas fighters had surrendered, calling it the beginning of the end for the organization. “Surrender now,” he told them in a televised statement.

Hamas denied the surrender of its fighters and said it destroyed 180 Israeli military vehicles during the fighting without providing evidence.

She said that Israel would not be able to recover the remaining hostages by force, except through negotiations.

Images that appeared on social media on Friday of Palestinian men detained in Gaza kneeling on the ground in their underwear sparked widespread outrage in Arab countries.

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Palestinians among a group of ten released by the Israeli army in Gaza told Reuters that they were subjected to physical abuse during detention, including by soldiers who hit them on the heads and bodies with shoes. An Israeli army spokesman said he was investigating these allegations.

After weeks of fighting concentrated in the north, Israel launched its ground attack in the south last week with an attack on Khan Yunis. With fighting now continuing along almost the entire length of the Gaza Strip, international relief organizations say the enclave’s 2.3 million residents no longer have anywhere to hide.

The World Health Organization said it would be impossible to improve the “catastrophic” situation in Gaza, where medical needs have increased and the risk of disease has increased while the health system has been severely reduced.

At the site of a house in Khan Yunis that was destroyed by bombing during the night, relatives of the dead were combing through the rubble in a dazed state. They pulled the body of a middle-aged man wearing a yellow shirt from under the building.

Ahmed Abdel Wahab said: “We prayed the night prayer and slept, then we woke up to find the house above us. ‘Who is alive?!’”

“Three floors above it collapsed and people were below it,” he said. “My mother and father, my sister and brother, all my cousins.”

The main hospital in Khan Yunis, Nasser Hospital, was overrun with dead and wounded. On Sunday, there was no room left in the emergency department as people carried more wounded people wrapped in blankets and carpets. Muhammad Abu Shihab cried and swore to avenge his son, who he said was killed by an Israeli sniper

The vast majority of Gazans have now been forced from their homes, many having fled multiple times with only the possessions they could carry. Israel says it is doing what it can to protect civilians, but even the United States, its closest ally, says it has not kept those promises.

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Fears of escalation

The intensity of fighting between Israel and Iran-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon escalated on Sunday due to the conflict in Gaza.

At an international conference in Doha, the capital of Qatar, which played the role of main mediator of a week-long truce that saw the release of more than 100 hostages, Arab foreign ministers criticized the United States for vetoing a UN Security Council resolution on Friday demanding humanitarian aid. Ceasefire in Gaza.

Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman Al Thani said that the war threatens to radicalize an entire generation in the Middle East. The Jordanian foreign minister said the Israeli campaign aimed to expel Palestinians from Gaza and met the legal definition of genocide, accusations Israel described as shameful.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he “will not give up” his call for a ceasefire.

“I urged the Security Council to put pressure to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe and repeated my call to declare a humanitarian ceasefire,” Guterres said. “Unfortunately, the Security Council failed to do so, but that does not lessen the necessity of doing so.”

(Reporting by Bassam Masoud and Mohammed Salem in Gaza, Nidal al-Mughrabi in Cairo, and Dan Williams, Ari Rabinovitch, Emily Rose and Henriette Shekar in Jerusalem.) Edited by Catherine Evans, Nick Macfie and Susan Fenton

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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A senior correspondent with nearly 25 years of experience covering the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, including several wars and the signing of the first historic peace agreement between the two sides.