Monday, July 22, 2024

Gazans flee Israeli assault that Hamas warns could threaten ceasefire talks

Gazans flee Israeli assault that Hamas warns could threaten ceasefire talks
July 9, 2024 Web Desk

GAZA, Palestine (Reuters) - Gaza City residents fled under Israeli fire as tanks thrust deeper into the heart of the city on Tuesday, the second day of a stepped-up military offensive that Palestinian militant group Hamas said could jeopardise ceasefire talks.

The armed wings of Hamas and its ally Islamic Jihad said its fighters battled Israeli forces in fierce clashes with machine guns, mortar fire and anti-tank missiles on Gaza City's front lines and had killed and wounded Israeli soldiers. Israel's military did not comment on casualties but said its soldiers were engaged in close-quarter combat with militants and had taken more than 150 fighters out of action in the last week and destroyed booby-trapped buildings and explosives.

The fighting has unfolded as senior US officials were in the region to push for a ceasefire after Hamas made concessions last week. But the renewed campaign threatened talks at a crucial time and could bring negotiations ‘back to square one’, Hamas quoted leader Ismail Haniyeh as saying. Footage circulated on social media showed families packed onto donkey carts and in the backs of trucks piled with mattresses and other belongings making their way through the city's streets to flee areas under Israeli evacuation orders.

"Gaza City is being wiped out, this is what is happening. Israel is forcing us to leave homes under fire," Um Tamer, a mother of seven, told Reuters via a chat app. She said it was the seventh time her family had fled their house in Gaza City, in the north of the enclave and one of Israel's first targets at the start of the war in October.

"We can't take it anymore, enough of death and humiliation. End the war now," she said. Israeli tanks pushed deeper into several districts including Shejaia, Sabra and Tel Al-Hawa, where residents have reported some of the most fierce fighting in months. The Palestinian Red Crescent said all of its medical clinics were out of service in Gaza City due to Israeli evacuation orders which have pushed thousands of people westward towards the Mediterranean and to the south.

Nine months of war and displacement have caused a hunger crisis and the recent deaths of several more children from malnutrition in the Gaza Strip indicate that famine has spread throughout the enclave, a group of independent human rights experts mandated by the United Nations. In a Khan Younis hospital, Palestinian woman Ghaneyma Joma told Reuters she feared her son would die of starvation. "It's distressing to see my child...lying there dying from malnutrition because I cannot provide him with anything due to the war, the closing of crossings and the contaminated water," she said, seated on the floor next to her motionless son, who had an intravenous drip attached to his wrist.

AIRSTRIKES

In Al-Nuseirat in central Gaza, an Israeli airstrike early on Tuesday on a house of several storeys martyred 17 people, including 14 children and a woman, Hamas' media office said.

Neighbours rushed to help medics and emergency workers recover bodies and search for survivors under the rubble. "They were displaced during the night after Al-Nuseirat camp school was hit... They said they would sleep in the house, fearing for the children and there was a massacre in the house. They are not safe in the schools nor the houses," said Yasser Abu Hamada, a local resident.

Across Gaza, more than 40 Palestinians were martyred on Tuesday in Israeli airstrikes on Gaza City in the north, Al-Bureij, Deir Al-Balah and Al-Nuseirat in central Gaza and in Rafah in the south, according to medics. The total Palestinian death toll in the nine-month-long Israeli military offensive has now reached 38,243, Gaza health officials said in their latest update. The war was triggered when fighters led by Hamas attacked southern Isra