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Israeli tanks advance deeper into Gaza districts

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31 December 2023, Canberra Times / AAP, by Nidal Al-Mughrabi and Arafat Barbakh and Dan Williams

Israeli forces have pushed deeper into central and southern Gaza with heavy air and artillery fire, residents said, pressing a deadly offensive that has razed much of the enclave and that Israel has said may last months more.

Fighting on Saturday was focused in al-Bureij, Nuseirat, Maghazi and Khan Younis, backed by intensive air strikes that filled hospitals with wounded Palestinians.

The bombardment has killed 165 people and wounded 250 others in Gaza over the past 24 hours, health authorities in the Hamas-run territory said.

Almost all of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents have been forced from their homes by Israel’s 12-week assault, triggered after Hamas and allied groups killed 1200 people and captured 240 hostages in a rampage in southern Israel on October 7.

The offensive has killed at least 21,672 Palestinians, according to health authorities in Gaza, with more than 56,000 injured and thousands more feared dead under the rubble.

Israel says 172 of its military personnel have been killed in the Gaza fighting.

On Saturday, the armed wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine said an Israeli soldier being held captive by the group had been killed in an Israeli air strike that had also wounded some of his captors.

A spokesperson for the group, the second-biggest faction of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) after Fatah, said in comments broadcast by Al Araby television that the air strike took place following a failed attempt by Israeli commandos to free the soldier.

The spokesperson gave no details of when the soldier had been taken captive, or where he was being held in Gaza.

The Israeli military declined comment.

The conflict risks spreading across the region, drawing in Iran-aligned groups in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen, that have exchanged fire with Israel and its US ally, or targeted merchant shipping.

Bombardment has smashed houses, apartment blocks and businesses and put hospitals out of action. On Saturday the Palestinian Culture Ministry said Israeli strikes had struck a medieval bathhouse. The old Great Mosque was hit earlier in the war.

Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant on Friday said troops were reaching Hamas command centres and arms depots. Pictures released by the military showed soldiers moving across churned-up earth among ruins of destroyed buildings.

The Israeli military said it had destroyed a tunnel complex in the basement of one of the houses of the Hamas leader for Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, in Gaza City. Troops also raided the Hamas military intelligence headquarters and an Islamic Jihad command centre in Khan Younis, killed several gunmen elsewhere in the town as they prepared ambushes, and destroyed targets including a weapons foundry, a military statement said.

In northern Gaza, Israeli forces killed more than 15 gunmen in clashes and captured weapons caches, the statement said.

Israel on Friday said it had facilitated the entry of vaccines into Gaza in coordination with UNICEF, the United Nations children’s agency, to help prevent the spread of disease.

The little aid reaching the enclave since the start of the war, when Israel imposed a near total blockade on all food, medicine and fuel, has come across the border with Egypt.

Israel has only allowed access to the south of the enclave, where it started ordering all Gaza civilians to move from October, and aid agencies have said Israeli inspections have stopped all but a small fraction of needed supplies getting in.

The Israeli government said it does not limit humanitarian aid and the problem was with distribution inside Gaza.

South Africa asked the International Court of Justice on Friday for an urgent order declaring Israel in breach of its obligations under the 1948 Genocide Convention in its crackdown against Hamas in Gaza.

In response, Israel’s foreign ministry blamed Hamas for causing the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza by using them as human shields and stealing relief aid from them. Hamas denies the accusations.

The Gaza war has also stoked violence in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. On Saturday, Israeli troops shot a Palestinian motorist who tried to ram them near the West Bank city of Hebron, the army said. He was killed in the incident, the Palestinian health ministry said.

A Palestinian journalist working for Al-Quds TV was killed along with some of his family members in an air strike on their house in the Nuseirat camp in central Gaza Strip on Friday, health officials and fellow journalists said.

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Article source: Canberra Times / AAP | Nidal Al-Mughrabi and Arafat Barbakh and Dan Williams | 31.12.23

2024-05-08 07:04:10.000000