Israel pounded Gaza on Sunday, in the north and the south, on the third day since the end of ceasefire early on Friday.
On day 58 of the war Israel operated in areas that still remain under full or partial Hamas control in northern Gaza, such as the Sejaiya neighbourhood and Jebalya. Residents who remain were urged to head west, towards the coast, for their own safety. Israel estimates it will take about two weeks before the military can quell militant resistance in the northern Gaza Strip.
In parallel to the fighting in the north, Israel’s military focus is now Gaza’s second largest city, Khan Yunis, in the south, where it is believed many of the Hamas leaders are now located. In addition to massive air strikes fighting is already taking place on the outskirts of Khan Yunis and a larger military thrust into the city is expected in the coming days. Like in the north, residents have been told to head west, towards the coast, where it is relatively safe, or south, towards Rafah.
The southern Gaza Strip already has more than one million refugees who fled from the fighting in the north. There are growing signs of chaos amid the breakdown of law and order, with hundreds of residents stealing supplies from aid lorries.
Israel hopes the military operation will increase pressure on Hamas to release the 136 hostages who still remain in Gaza after more than 100 were released during the one-week ceasefire.
Israel’s prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu said the only way for Israel to win is by continuing the ground offensive. “The IDF are doing this with resolve, with might, while abiding by international law,” he said.
Israeli officials said on Sunday that 800 tunnel shafts have been discovered so far in Gaza, and 500 have already been destroyed.
Aid workers described the Israeli attacks in southern Gaza as “relentless”, saying the population was in panic. According to United Nations estimates, about four in five residents of Gaza have now fled their homes due to the war. UN human rights chief Filippo Grandi said Gaza residents were being “pushed more and more towards a narrow corner of what is already a very narrow territory”.
Meanwhile, the tone from Israel’s most important ally, the United States, seems to be changing despite assertions that Israel has the right to defend itself. US vice-president Kamala Harris said too many Palestinians had already been killed, describing the scale of civilian suffering as “devastating”. US defence secretary Lloyd Austin stressed that protecting the civilian population was a “moral responsibility”.
Israeli government adviser Mark Regev rejected allegations that the Israeli military was doing too little to safeguard the civilian population. He said Israel was making a maximum effort to differentiate between terrorists and the civilian population, blaming Hamas for using residential areas, hospitals and mosques to hide its “military terror machine”.
The Hamas-run health ministry reports that more than 300 residents have been killed since the fighting resumed on Friday, with hundreds more trapped under rubble. At least 15,500 people have been killed in Gaza since the fighting began on October 7th, when thousands of heavily-armed gunmen infiltrated into Israel, killing about 1,200 people and taking some 240 hostage.
US national security council spokesperson John Kirby said there were no “official negotiations” at the moment for a new humanitarian pause or hostage releases, though he said Washington hoped to see talks get back on track. He added that it was “unacceptable” that the Red Cross had not been granted access to hostages held captive in Gaza.
Meanwhile, fears of a wider conflict have also intensified after a US warship and multiple commercial ships came under attack in the Red Sea, the Pentagon said.
Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels claimed attacks on two ships they described as being linked to Israel but did not acknowledge targeting a US vessel.
However, Israeli military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said the two ships had no connection to the state of Israel. - Additional reporting AP and Reuters
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