As Israel and Hamas edged closer to a truce agreement on Tuesday, the fighting in Gaza continued.
Fifteen people were killed and 22 others injured in an Israeli strike on a residential apartment in Khan Younis, southern Gaza, on Tuesday evening according to Al Jazeera TV and a Telegram channel affiliated to Hamas.
The Qatar-based Al Jazeera TV showed video footage of the apartment site and a number of dead children wrapped in bed sheets while other residents were searching the rubble.
The victims and the injured arrived at Nasser Hospital, according to Shehab News Agency, a channel close to Hamas on Telegram.
The war began on October 7th when 1,200 Israelis, according to Israel’s government, were killed when some 3,000 gunmen stormed into southern Israel from Gaza. The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza has said the death toll in the enclave has exceeded 13,000.
Israeli troops are now operating in the vicinity of the barely functional Indonesian Hospital, near the northern edge of the strip. Nearly a dozen people died after an explosion at the hospital on Monday, local health officials said, while Israel said it responded to fire on its troops from within the hospital.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has also been fighting in eastern parts of Gaza City. Pockets of Hamas militants remain within the city limits, which Israeli troops have encircled and penetrated since its ground invasion began on October 27th.
The IDF estimates it has eliminated two battalions of Hamas fighters, while significantly degrading the capabilities of others, with its relentless aerial bombardment, which has shielded its soldiers’ advance while destroying more than half the buildings in northern Gaza.
Israel has laid siege to Gaza since the Hamas attack that Israeli officials say killed about 1,200 people. Close to 13,000 people have been killed as part of Israel’s retaliatory bombardment and invasion, according to Palestinian officials.
Separately, the Israeli army said it had released celebrated poet Mosab Abu Toha, who had been detained at a Gaza checkpoint as he tried to flee south.
Mr Toha has published essays in the New Yorker and the Financial Times since the war began, documenting the toll Israel’s bombardment has taken on civilians and his family. He was named a finalist in 2022 for the prestigious American National Book Critics Circle poetry award for a collection of poems called Things You May Find Hidden in My Ear: Poems from Gaza.
Mr Toha was detained with about 200 other people at the checkpoint on Monday, a person familiar with his detention said. He was travelling with his infant son, a US citizen, and his wife.
Israel had faced international pressure to explain his detention. The IDF said it was acting on intelligence “indicating a number of interactions several civilians and terror organisations inside the Gaza Strip” but provided no evidence for its claims.
In Lebanon, the state news agency reported a number of Israeli strikes near the border. Two journalists were among the eight people killed, as well as an 80-year-old woman.
Reporter Farah Omar and cameraman Rabih al-Maamari, who worked for pro-Hizbullah news network Al Mayadeen, were killed in a rocket strike near the town of Teir Harfa. A third civilian was also killed in the same incident.
Lebanon and Israel have traded fire almost every day since October 7th, but the exchanges have recently increased in intensity, raising fears of a regional escalation.
Lebanon’s caretaker premier blamed Israel for the strike on the journalists, saying it was an attempt to “silence the media”. The Israeli military said it was looking into that incident.
Iran-backed Hizbullah said the journalists’ killing “will not pass without retaliation”, before launching guided missiles across the border in what it called “its first response”.
Footage taken by another journalist in the aftermath of the incident showed the Mayadeen team stationed in the garden of a building overlooking the border. During earlier live broadcasts, Farah Omar was seen wearing a protective vest marked “press”.
The Committee to Protect Journalists, a press freedom advocacy group, said nearly 50 journalists were confirmed to have been killed since the start of the Israel-Hamas war, most of them Palestinians in Gaza. More journalists have been killed in this war than were killed worldwide in 2022.
South African lawmakers have voted to close the Israeli embassy in the country.
In a rare show of co-operation, the ruling African National Congress backed a motion brought by the Economic Freedom Fighters, the third-largest opposition party, to close the diplomatic mission.
South African government officials have criticised Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, while expressing solidarity with the Palestinian people – a longstanding policy of the ANC. South Africa downgraded its relations with Israel to a liaison office in March, having recalled its ambassador four years ago.
Last week, South Africa joined five other developing nations in referring Israel to the International Criminal Court for war crimes over its conflict with Hamas.
The final decision on whether to close the embassy rests with Mr Ramaphosa - Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2023 - Additional reporting: Guardian/Agencies