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Friday, June 21, 2024

Israeli military expands ground offensive into urban refugee camps in Gaza


RAFAH, ​Gaza Strip — The⁣ conflict between ⁢Israel⁤ and⁣ Palestine has escalated, with Israeli forces expanding their ground offensive into urban refugee camps in central Gaza. The‌ crowded Palestinian communities have been bombarded, and residents have been ordered ⁢to⁤ evacuate. Gaza’s main telecom​ provider announced ⁣another “complete interruption” of services⁤ in the besieged territory.

The military’s announcement of the new battle zone threatens further destruction in a ⁣war that⁢ Israel says will last for “many months” as it vows to crush the ruling Hamas militant‌ group after its Oct.‍ 7 ‌attack.⁤ Israeli forces​ have been engaged in heavy urban fighting in northern Gaza ⁣and⁣ the southern city of Khan ‍Younis, driving Palestinians into ever-smaller areas in search of refuge.

The U.S. said Israel’s ⁣minister for strategic affairs, Ron‍ Dermer, ⁢was meeting with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan. Despite U.S. calls for Israel to curb civilian casualties and international pressure for​ a cease-fire,⁣ Israeli Prime Minister​ Benjamin Netanyahu​ said the military is deepening ‌the fighting.

“We say to the Hamas terrorists: We see ⁣you and we will get⁢ to​ you,” ‍Netanyahu said.

Israel’s offensive is one of ‌the most devastating military campaigns in recent history. More ⁤than ⁣20,900 Palestinians, two-thirds women and children,​ have been ⁢killed, according to the Health Ministry⁤ in ⁤Gaza, whose count‌ doesn’t ‌differentiate between ⁤civilians and combatants. The agency said 240 people were killed⁣ over the past​ 24⁢ hours.

The U.N. human ⁢rights office said⁢ the continued bombardment of middle Gaza had claimed⁣ more than 100 Palestinian ‌lives since Christmas Eve. The office noted that Israel had ordered ‍some‍ residents to ⁢move ⁢there.

Israel said it ⁤would no longer grant automatic visas⁢ to U.N. employees and accused the world body of being ⁢”complicit partners” in ​Hamas’ ⁢tactics. ⁤Government spokesman Eylon ⁣Levy ⁤said Israel would ​consider visa requests case⁤ by case. That could further limit aid efforts in Gaza.

Residents of central Gaza described shelling and⁤ airstrikes shaking the ‌Nuseirat, Maghazi and Bureij camps. The built-up towns hold Palestinians driven from their homes in what is⁢ now Israel during the 1948 war, along ‌with their⁢ descendants.

“The bombing was very ⁣intense,” Radwan Abu ​Sheitta said by phone from Bureij.

The ⁣Israeli military ordered residents ‌to evacuate‍ a belt of territory the width of central Gaza, urging them‍ to move to nearby Deir ⁣al-Balah. The U.N. humanitarian office said ⁤the area ordered evacuated was home to nearly 90,000 people before the war and now shelters more than 61,000 displaced ⁤people, mostly from the north.

The military‌ later said it was operating in Bureij and asserted​ that it had located a Hamas ‌training camp.

The telecom⁣ outage announced by Paltel follows similar outages‌ through much of the war. NetBlocks, a group that tracks internet outages, confirmed that network connectivity in Gaza was disrupted ‌again and “likely⁢ to leave most residents offline.”

Senior Hamas ​official ⁣Osama Hamdan said several countries had ‍sent proposals⁢ to ⁢resolve the conflict following‍ news of ⁤an Egyptian ​proposal that would include a transitional Palestinian government in Gaza and the occupied West Bank. He did not offer details of the proposals.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Israel faces a ⁣”multi-arena war”‍ on seven fronts — Gaza and the West⁤ Bank, Lebanon,⁣ Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Iran. “We ⁣have ‍responded and acted already on six of these,”⁢ he told the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

Iranian-backed militia groups‍ around the region have stepped up attacks in support of Hamas.

Iranian-backed militias in Iraq carried​ out a drone ‌strike‌ on⁣ a ‌U.S. base in Irbil on Monday, wounding​ three American service members, according to U.S. officials.⁢ In response,​ U.S.‍ warplanes hit ​three locations in⁣ Iraq connected to a main militia, Kataib Hezbollah.

Almost‌ daily, Hezbollah ​and Israel exchange missiles, ⁤airstrikes and shelling across the Israeli-Lebanese ⁤border. On Tuesday,​ Israel’s military said⁢ Hezbollah ​struck a Greek Orthodox⁢ church in northern Israel with a missile, wounding two Israeli ⁤Christians, and fired again on arriving soldiers, ⁣wounding nine.

“Hezbollah is risking the ‍stability of the‍ region​ for the sake​ of Hamas,”⁣ said Israel’s military spokesman, Rear Adm. ​Daniel Hagari.

In the Red Sea, attacks by Houthi ‌rebels in Yemen‍ against commercial ships have ‍disrupted trade and prompted a U.S.-led multinational naval operation to⁣ protect shipping routes. The⁤ Israeli military said⁤ a fighter jet on Tuesday shot down a “hostile aerial target”​ above the ‍Red Sea that the military asserted was ⁤on its way to Israeli territory.

More than 85% of Gaza’s 2.3 million people‍ have been driven from their homes.⁢ U.N. officials‍ say a quarter of the territory’s population ‍is starving under Israel’s siege, which allows in‌ a‌ trickle of ⁣food,​ water, ‌fuel,⁤ medicine and ⁣other supplies. Last‍ week, the U.N. Security Council⁢ called ⁤for immediately speeding up aid deliveries,​ but there has been little‍ sign‌ of⁣ change.

In an area⁤ Israel had⁣ declared a safe zone, a strike hit a home in Mawasi, a rural area in the southern province of⁣ Khan Younis. One woman was killed and at least eight were wounded, according to a ‌cameraman working ​for the Associated Press at‍ the⁤ nearby hospital.

In response, Israel’s military said that it wouldn’t refrain from operating ⁤in safe zones, “if ‍it identifies terrorist organization activity threatening the security of Israel.”

Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack in southern Israel killed around 1,200 people,‌ mostly civilians, and took about 240⁤ others hostage.⁢ Israel ⁢aims to free⁢ the more than 100 hostages who remain in captivity.

Israel blames Hamas for ⁣the ‌high civilian death toll in ⁤Gaza, citing militants’ use‌ of⁤ crowded residential areas and⁢ tunnels. Israel‍ says it⁢ has killed⁢ thousands of militants, ⁢without​ presenting evidence.

At the Kerem Shalom border crossing, U.N. and Gazan ​medical workers unloaded a truck‍ carrying ‌about 80 ‍unidentified bodies that had been held by Israeli ⁤forces in northern Gaza. They were buried in⁣ a mass⁣ grave.

Medical workers called the odors unbearable. “We ⁢cannot open this container ​in a neighborhood where people live,” Dr. Marwan ⁢al-Hams, health emergency committee⁣ director in Rafah, told⁢ the AP. He said the health and justice ministries would investigate the bodies‍ for possible​ “war crimes.”

Hamas has shown⁣ resilience. The Israeli military announced ⁤the deaths of ⁤two more‍ soldiers, ⁣bringing the total killed ⁣since the ground offensive began to 161.

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  1. Agree: This escalation only brings more suffering and destruction to innocent civilians. A peaceful resolution must be sought immediately.


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