Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Israeli forces cut off north Gaza, death toll passes 10K

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Deir Al-Balah, Nov 6: Israeli forces severed northern Gaza from the rest of the besieged territory and pounded it with intense airstrikes overnight into Monday, setting the stage for an expected push into the dense confines of Gaza City and an even bloodier phase of the month-old war.
Already, the Palestinian death toll passed 10,000, the Health Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza said on Monday.
The ministry does not distinguish between fighters and civilians. Some 1,400 Israelis have died, mostly civilians killed in the October 7 incursion by Hamas that started the war.
The figures mark a grim milestone in what has quickly become the deadliest round of Israeli-Palestinian violence since Israel’s establishment 75 years ago, with no end in sight as Israel vows to remove Hamas from power and crush its military capabilities.
Casualties are only likely to rise as the war turns to close urban combat. Troops are expected to enter Gaza City soon, Israeli media reported, and Palestinian militants who have had years to prepare are likely to fight street by street, launching ambushes from a vast network of tunnels.
“We’re closing in on them,” said Lt. Col. Richard Hecht, an Israeli military spokesman. “We’ve completed our encirclement, separating Hamas strongholds in the north from the south.” The military said it struck 450 targets overnight and ground troops took over a Hamas compound. A one-way corridor for residents to flee south remains available for the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who remain in Gaza City and other parts of the north, according to the military.
Some 1.5 million Palestinians, or around 70 per cent of Gaza’s population, have fled their homes since the war began. Food, medicine, fuel and water are running low, and UN-run schools-turned-shelters are beyond capacity. Many people are sleeping on the streets outside.
Mobile phone and internet service went down overnight, the third territory-wide outage since the start of the war, but was gradually restored on Monday.
Israel has so far rejected US suggestions for a pause in fighting to facilitate humanitarian aid deliveries and the release of some of the estimated 240 hostages seized by Hamas in its raid. Israel has also dismissed calls for a broader cease-fire from increasingly alarmed Arab countries – including Jordan and Egypt, which made peace with it decades ago.
After days of intense diplomacy around the Middle East, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken wrapped up his tour of the region on Monday, saying efforts to secure a humanitarian pause, negotiate the release of hostages and plan for a post-Hamas Gaza were still “a work in progress” without pointing to any concrete achievements.
The war has also stoked wider tensions, with Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group trading fire along the border.
In another sign of growing unrest, a Palestinian man stabbed and wounded two members of Israel’s paramilitary Border Police in east Jerusalem before being shot dead, police said. (AP)

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