Mahmud Hams Agence France-Presse At the southern tip of Gaza, the town of Rafah, bordering Egypt, is home to huge camps where refugees try to protect themselves from the winter cold in makeshift shelters.
Adel Zaanoun – Agence France-Presse and Chloe Rouveyrolles-Bazire in the Gaza Strip
- Middle East
The Israeli army again bombarded the Gaza Strip on Thursday, relentlessly continuing its offensive against Hamas in the besieged Palestinian territory where “hunger and despair” are worsening, according to the UN , after more than two and a half months of war.
The war, sparked on October 7 by the Palestinian Islamist movement's bloody attack on Israel, shows no sign of letting up despite heavy civilian casualties and international calls for a ceasefire.
The conflict has also reignited tensions across the Middle East, notably on Israel's northern border with Lebanon, where the Israeli general staff spoke of a possible “expansion of fighting” on Thursday.
According to an AFP journalist, artillery fire hit several places in the Gaza Strip during the night, including Khan Younes, the large southern city where many civilians have taken refuge.
The Hamas Ministry of Health announced Thursday that 210 people, “including entire families,” had been killed in 24 hours by Israeli strikes.
A total of 21,320 people, mostly women and children, have been killed in Gaza since the start of Israeli military operations, according to the ministry.
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In Israel, the attack on October 7 left around 1,140 dead, most of them civilians, according to an AFP count based on the latest official Israeli figures. Around 250 people have been kidnapped by Hamas, of whom 129 remain detained in Gaza.
In retaliation, Israel vowed to destroy Hamas, classified as a terrorist organization by the United States, Israel and the European Union. The army launched a ground offensive there on October 27 that has cost the lives of 167 soldiers so far, according to the army.
It continued its operations on Thursday in Khan Younes, which it considers to be an important Hamas stronghold, and in the refugee camps in the center of the territory, which shelter many displaced people.
She broadcast images of her soldiers advancing in tunnels dug, according to her, by Hamas near the al-Rantissi pediatric hospital, in the west of Gaza City, the one of the hospitals where Israel accuses Hamas of having installed a command center.
The Palestinian Red Crescent announced that ten people had been killed in new Israeli bombings near Al-Amal hospital in Khan Younes, which shelters around 14,000 displaced people.
“We are suffering”
The population of Gaza is in “great danger”, the World Health Organization warned on Wednesday, saying that “hunger and despair” are worsening in the territory, subject by Israel to a total siege since October 9.
According to the UN, nearly two million people have been displaced, or 85% of the population.
The war has caused immense destruction, knocked out most hospitals and pushed 1.9 million people, or 85 percent of the population, from their homes, according to the UN.
Many fled several times, pushed onto the roads by the advance of the fighting and the evacuation orders from the Israeli army, without however escaping the incessant bombardments.
At the southern tip of the territory, the town of Rafah, on the border with Egypt, is home to huge camps where refugees try to protect themselves from the winter cold under tents or plastic sheeting.
In this sector, “the population is almost a million and a half inhabitants,” estimates Nedal Abu Shbeka, owner of a bedding store, where mattresses are in short supply. “There are people in schools, camps and other places,” he tells AFP.
Exhausted women recount the constant struggle to drink, feed and wash.
“Enough of the war, enough of the suffering, enough of the hunger. We are tired of everything,” says Ekhlas Shnenou, who arrived in Rafah after fleeing Gaza City. “There are no more basic necessities. It's difficult to make bread dough, do laundry, we have to fetch water to drink and wash. We are suffering. »
In the al-Maghazi refugee camp, targeted on Sunday by a deadly strike which left at least 70 dead, Waleed Mohamed Aeid, a resident met by AFP, let his anger explode.
“They told us to go to Rafah, but we don’t want to. Why ? To go live on the street there ? The whole neighborhood was evacuated. They bombed the school, but we didn’t leave because we have nowhere to go,” he said, his voice cracking with emotion.
Humanitarian aid, whose entry into Gaza is controlled by Israel, only arrives in very limited quantities.
Risk of “expansion”
A resolution adopted on December 22 by the UN Security Council, demanding the delivery of aid “immediately” and “on a large scale,” remains ineffective.
In addition to the Gaza Strip, Israeli forces increased raids in the occupied West Bank during the night, particularly in Jenin and Ramallah, where the Palestinian Authority is headquartered, according to the Palestinian agency WAFA.
A Palestinian was killed at dawn on Thursday during an army incursion into Ramallah, during which exchange houses accused by Israel of transferring money to Hamas were searched, according to the agency.
Israeli Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi said his army was at “a very high level of readiness for an expansion of fighting in the north,” on the Lebanese border, where Exchanges of fire between Israel and Hezbollah, an ally of Hamas and supported by Iran, are daily.
Warning sirens sounded several times Thursday afternoon in northern Israel.
Iran on Wednesday threatened Israel with “direct and other actions carried out by the resistance front” after the death on Monday of a Guards general in a missile strike in Syria that it blames on Israel. of the Revolution, Razi Moussavi, whose funeral took place Thursday in Tehran.
Thousands of people gathered in the center of the Iranian capital, chanting “death to Israel”, “death to the United States”.
After a week-long truce at the end of November, negotiated by Qatar with the support of the United States and Egypt, efforts to achieve a new pause in the fighting remain in vain.
This truce allowed the release of 105 hostages and 240 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel, as well as the entry into Gaza of a large volume of humanitarian aid.
Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani spoke this week with US President Joe Biden about efforts needed to “achieve a permanent ceasefire.”
But both camps remain intransigent.
Hamas demands an end to the fighting before any negotiations on further releases of hostages. Israel is open to the idea of a truce, but rules out any ceasefire before the “elimination” of the Islamist movement.