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Intense fighting in Gaza, mediators redouble efforts for truce

Photo: Jack Guez Agence France-Presse Israeli soldiers in a tank move along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip.

Adel Zaanoun – Agence France-Presse and Delphine Matthieussent – Agence France-Presse respectively in the Gaza Strip and Jerusalem


  • Middle East

Khan Younes, in the south of Gaza, is the scene of deadly fighting on Wednesday between Hamas and the Israeli army, which pushes residents to flee and threatens hospitals, at a time when the mediating countries are trying to reach a new truce in the devastated Palestinian territory.

Heavy strikes and tank fire, according to an AFP correspondent, once again targeted Khan Younes, a largely destroyed town that became the epicenter of the war launched on October 7 by the bloody attack by the Palestinian Islamist movement against Israel.

The Israeli army admitted on Tuesday that it had begun to flood the tunnels dug by Hamas underground in Gaza, one of the major tactical objectives of the war.

This vast network of concrete corridors constitutes a trap for the soldiers and several hostages have been held there. Israel accuses Hamas, in power in Gaza since 2007, of having built them in particular under hospitals and other civilian buildings, thus justifying its bombings.

After almost four months of war, the United States, Egypt and Qatar are working behind the scenes to try to convince Israel and Hamas to commit to a new truce, after that of 'a week at the end of November which allowed the release of 105 hostages in Gaza and 240 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

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  • UNRWA controversy 'diverts attention' from humanitarian crisis in Gaza

Meeting in Cairo

Hamas leader Ismaïl Haniyeh, in exile in Qatar, is expected in Cairo on Wednesday or Thursday for discussions on a proposed truce.

His delegation is to meet with “Egyptian intelligence officials”, a senior official with the movement in Gaza told AFP, to discuss a proposal made during a recent meeting in Paris between the director of the CIA, William Burns, and Egyptian, Israeli and Qatari officials.

Hamas, however, is demanding a total ceasefire prior to any agreement, particularly on the release of Israeli hostages.

Israel, for its part, refuses any cessation of fighting until the Islamist movement, which it considers a terrorist organization like the United States and the European Union, is eliminated.< /p>

Hamas “will insist on the need for a total cessation of Israeli aggression”, “a withdrawal of the occupying forces and the return of the displaced to the northern Gaza Strip” , added this official, affirming that the movement rejected “any proposal” from Israel which would concern “a partial and temporary ceasefire”.

On October 7, Hamas commandos infiltrated from Gaza carried out an unprecedented attack on Israeli soil, which resulted in the deaths of 1,140 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP count. based on official Israeli figures.

In total, some 250 people were kidnapped and taken to the Gaza Strip. According to Israeli authorities, 132 hostages remain held there, of whom 29 are believed to have died.

In response, Israel vowed to “annihilate” Hamas and launched a vast military operation that left 26,900 dead, the vast majority civilians, according to the Palestinian movement’s Ministry of Health.

“Left to Ourselves”

The fighting and bombings left 150 dead in 24 hours across the territory, the Hamas Ministry of Health announced on Wednesday.

“Dozens of raids” by Israeli aircraft targeted the center and west of Khan Yunis, “causing dozens of deaths and injuries,” the Hamas government said.

According to the army, “dozens of terrorists” were killed in a raid on facilities of Islamic Jihad, another Palestinian armed group, in the west of the city.< /p>

“A workshop for manufacturing weapons, including long-range rockets, anti-tank missiles, mines and explosives” was destroyed, as was an “underground track located in a tunnel,” added the army.

Wednesday morning, according to witnesses, artillery fire targeted the Nasser hospital in Khan Younès, the largest in the south of the territory.

Thousands of civilians have taken refuge there as well as in the Palestinian Red Crescent hospital, al-Amal, near where staff reported fighting while food was lacking.

“We left the Nasser hospital without mattresses, under bombings and airstrikes. We didn't know where to go. We are in the cold, left to our own devices, without tents and without anything to survive,” testified a woman who fled to Rafah, about twenty kilometers further south.

In the territory besieged by Israel, in the grip of a major humanitarian crisis, the bombings have pushed 1.7 million Palestinians, according to the UN, out of a total of 2.4 million inhabitants, to flee their home.

Most headed south as the fighting spread. More than 1.3 million displaced people, according to the UN, are now crowded into Rafah, trapped against the closed border with Egypt.

Adding to public distress, civilian aid operations of the UN Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA) are under threat after Israel charges 12 of its 30,000 employees regional agency involvement in the October 7 attack.

Thirteen countries have suspended their funding to this agency.

Withdrawing funds from UNRWA “would lead to the collapse of the humanitarian system in Gaza, with far-reaching consequences,” heads of several UN agencies warned.

Faced with the risk of a conflagration in the Middle East, the White House affirmed that the United States' response would probably be “graduated”, after the death of three American soldiers on Sunday in Jordan, in a drone strike attributed to pro-Iran groups.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116