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Dozens of Israeli tanks enter southern part of Gaza Strip: witnesses to AFP

By AFP

December 4, 2023 05:08 PM


 

Dozens of Israeli tanks entered the southern part of the Gaza Strip near Khan Yunis on Monday, witnesses told AFP, with the Israeli military widely expected to start a ground offensive in the area soon.

Armoured personnel carriers and bulldozers were also seen as Israel expanded its operations against Hamas in response to the Palestinian militant group's deadly October 7 attack on southern Israel.

Amin Abu Hawli, 59, said the Israeli vehicles were "two kilometres (1.2 miles) inside" the Palestinian territory in the village of Al-Qarara near Khan Yunis.

Moaz Mohammed, 34, said Israeli tanks were on the southern part of Salah al-Din road which runs from the north to the south of the strip.

"They are holding Salah al-Din road on both sides and are now cutting it between Deir al-Balah (in central Gaza) and Khan Yunis, firing bullets and tank shells at cars and people trying to move through the area," he said.

Since a truce expired on Friday, fighting in Gaza has resumed, as have militants' rocket launches toward Israel and Israel's air strikes on the Palestinian territory.

In its latest estimate, the UN humanitarian agency OCHA said around 1.8 million people in Gaza, roughly 75 percent of the population, had been displaced, many to overcrowded and unsanitary shelters.

Many people have been forced to flee to the south of the Gaza Strip and fear being pushed towards the border with Egypt.

Israeli military spokesman Jonathan Conricus said on Monday that Israel was not "trying to displace anyone".

"We are not trying to move anybody from anywhere permanently," he said.

Many Palestinians fear a repeat of the displacement of 760,000 Palestinians that took place during the war that led to Israel's creation 75 years ago.

Israel issues new tally of 15 bodies held in Gaza Strip

The Israeli prime minister's office on Monday said it had tallied the remains of 15 citizens that were being kept by Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip since the Hamas attacks of October 7.

Confirming three additional deaths of hostages held in the Gaza Strip, it said the militants were now holding the remains of 15 people.

The published list named the dead as 11 civilians and four soldiers, one of them a senior officer, although it did not elaborate further.

Around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, died in the October 7 attack when Hamas fighters broke through Gaza's militarised border into Israel. Around 240 people were also taken hostage.

Under an agreement between Israel and Hamas, 80 Israeli hostages were released in exchange for three times as many Palestinian prisoners during a seven-day truce that ended on Friday. Another 25, mostly Thais, were freed separately.

Five other hostages were also freed before the start of the week-long pause.

In response to the October 7 attack, Israel has vowed to eliminate Hamas.

Its air and ground campaign in Gaza has killed more than 15,500 people, also mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

The Israeli army said on Saturday 137 hostages were still being held in Gaza.

Red Cross chief arrives in Gaza, says suffering 'intolerable'

The president of the International Committee of the Red Cross said Monday that she had arrived in war-torn Gaza, warning that the suffering in the Palestinian territory was "intolerable".

"I repeat our urgent call for civilians to be protected in line with the laws of war and for aid to enter unimpeded," Mirjana Spoljaric said on X, formerly Twitter, adding that "the hostages must be released and ICRC allowed to safely visit them".


AFP


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