Thousands of Palestinian civilians fled on Wednesday the north of the Gaza Strip pounded by Israeli bombings , which claims to be tightening its grip on Gaza City and Hamas fighters.
The Israeli Prime Minister once again ruled out on Wednesday any ceasefire without the release of the hostages kidnapped by Hamas on October 7, during its attack on Israeli soil which sparked the war.
A A source close to Hamas in Gaza told AFP that negotiations led by Qatar were underway for the release of twelve hostages, including six Americans, in exchange for a three-day humanitarian truce in the territory subject to bombing and in a total siege for more than a month.
According to a new report from the Israeli authorities on Wednesday, 239 people are being held in Gaza.
The Israeli army said that 50,000 civilians fled Wednesday through the “evacuation corridor” open for a few hours on the road linking north to south Gaza, compared to 15,000 counted Tuesday by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs of the 'UN (Ocha).
“They are leaving because they understand that Hamas has lost control of the north and that the situation is more secure in the south,” said army spokesperson Daniel Hagari, adding that this corridor would be opened again Thursday.
– “We are exhausted” –
Leaving their homes empty-handed or taking only the bare necessities, they headed south on foot or in carts territory where hundreds of thousands of displaced people are already crowded. According to the UN, 1.5 million people of Gaza's 2.4 million inhabitants have been displaced by the war.
“Yesterday (Tuesday) we made the decision to leave because the bombings were very intense,” Ehsan Abu Sleem told AFP. “The children and women were terrified and we couldn't stand it any longer.”
Israel vowed to “destroy Hamas” in retaliation for the attack of unprecedented violence and scale since the creation of Israel in 1948, led by the commandos of the Islamist movement, in power in the Palestinian territory.
Members of the Palestinian civil defense search for survivors after an Israeli bombardment on Khan Younes, in the south of the Gaza Strip, November 8, 2023 © AFP – Mahmud HAMS
Au At least 1,400 people have died in Israel since the start of the war triggered by this attack, the majority civilians killed on October 7, according to Israeli authorities.
Israel's retaliation in the Gaza Strip left 10,569 dead, mostly civilians, including 4,324 children, according to the Hamas Ministry of Health.
– Tunnels neutralized –
Palestinians amid the rubble after an Israeli bombardment on Khan Younes, in the south of the Gaza Strip, on November 8, 2023 © AFP – Mahmud HAMS
The Israeli army assured Wednesday that it had entered “deep” inside Gaza City where ground fighting rages and in which 33 soldiers have died since the launch of the ground offensive on October 27.
According to Israel, the city shelters the “center” of Hamas entrenched in a network of tunnels of several hundred kilometers, according to experts.
The Israeli army released images on Wednesday showing its ground troops locating and then blowing up these underground passages. Some 130 tunnel entrances were discovered, according to her.
According to an AFP journalist, the bombings resumed during the night from Wednesday to Thursday near the Chifa hospital, in Gaza- city, where according to the UN a second shipment of medical supplies arrived Wednesday evening.
AFP was able to approach the epicenter of the fighting in northern Gaza on Wednesday during a visit organized by the Israeli army and whose images were subject to military censorship. Burnt palm trees, twisted lampposts, distorted road signs testified to the intensity of the offensive along the ruined coastal road.
– Portion of bread –
The Gaza Strip cut in two © AFP – Olivia BUGAULT, Sophie RAMIS
Multiple calls have been launched for an end to the fighting to deliver aid to the population of the 362 km2 deprived territory of water, electricity, food and medicine by the total siege imposed by Israel since October 9.
Gaza, undermined by poverty, was already subject to an Israeli land, air and maritime since Hamas took power there in 2007.
Thirteen NGOs, including Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and Amnesty International, called on Wednesday for an “immediate ceasefire”, on the eve of an international humanitarian conference organized by France.
The Heads of diplomacy from the G7 countries, meeting in Tokyo, pleaded Wednesday for “humanitarian breaks and corridors” in Gaza.
The humanitarian situation is worsening day by day, according to NGOs, while international aid arrives in dribs and drabs through the Rafah crossing with Egypt.
In the north, “many people desperately seeking food entered the last three bakeries where stocks of wheat flour remained”, according to Ocha. In the south, it takes “four to six hours of waiting on average to receive half of a normal portion of bread,” said the UN organization.
– No “occupation” –
Furthermore, the evacuation to Egypt of wounded Palestinians and dual nationals was interrupted again on Wednesday, according to a Palestinian official, despite the crowds of refugees rushing to Rafah to leave the territory.
So that questions are already being asked about the future of Gaza, the Israeli government judged Wednesday “very premature” to discuss future “scenarios”. The Gaza Strip must be “demilitarized” to prevent a return of Hamas, classified as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union and Israel.
Israel must then “have general security responsibility for an indefinite period,” declared Ron Dermer, Israeli Minister of Strategic Affairs. But “it will not be an occupation” of the territory from which Israel withdrew in 2005, he assured.
White House spokesperson John Kirby, clarified the American position, according to which the presence of the Israeli army in Gaza “should not be a long-term solution.”
But “just after the conflict it seems very plausible that at least for a certain period the Israeli army will remain in Gaza to manage the immediate consequences of the post-war and the security situation”, he said during 'a briefing Wednesday evening.
Ground operations of the Israeli army in the Gaza Strip © AFP – Simon MALFATTO, Maxence D'AVERSA, Olivia BUGAULT, Sabrina BLANCHARD, Anibal MAIZ CACERES
The international community fears an extension of the conflict, particularly to the Israeli-Lebanese border, where there are daily exchanges of fire between the Israeli army and Hezbollah, supported by Iran. According to an AFP count, the violence left 83 dead on the Lebanese side (61 Hezbollah fighters, 11 fighters from other groups and 11 civilians).
The Israeli air force also targeted Wednesday evening positions in Syria of Hezbollah, killing three pro-Iranian fighters, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (OSDH).
The United States on Wednesday struck a “storage facility for weapons” in Syria linked according to them to Iran, in response to attacks against American personnel which have increased since the start of the war in Gaza.
According to the OSDH, this strike nine deaths linked to groups supported by Iran.
All rights of reproduction and representation reserved. © (2023) Agence France-Presse