Home International Israeli strikes on Gaza intensify, pressure mounts over civilian casualties

Israeli strikes on Gaza intensify, pressure mounts over civilian casualties

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Israeli fighter jets struck 450 Hamas targets in Gaza and troops seized a militant compound in the past 24 hours, the Israel Defense Forces said on Monday, while the Palestinian enclave’s health ministry said the air strikes killed dozens of people.

Israeli soldiers take part in a military action at a location given as Gaza, amid the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in this screengrab obtained from a handout video released on November 6, 2023. Picture: Israel Defense Forces, Handout via Reuters

LATEST UPDATES:

* Israel says it hits 450 targets in past 24 hours

* Gaza health authorities say dozens killed

* Blinken, Turkish counterpart set to discuss Gaza war

* CIA chief reportedly due to visit Israel

By Nidal al-Mughrabi

GAZA – Israeli fighter jets struck 450 Hamas targets in Gaza and troops seized a militant compound in the past 24 hours, the Israel Defense Forces said on Monday, while the Palestinian enclave’s health ministry said the air strikes killed dozens of people.

A Reuters journalist in the Gaza Strip described the overnight bombardment from the air, ground and sea as one of the most intense since Israel launched its offensive in response to a surprise attack by Hamas on southern Israel a month ago.

Health officials in Hamas-controlled Gaza said more than 9,770 Palestinians have been killed in the war, which began when Hamas killed 1,400 people and seized more than 240 hostages on October 7.

Refusing to countenance a ceasefire until the hostages are released, Israel faced sustained pressure to avoid civilian casualties in its assault on Gaza, while a US diplomatic blitz in the region seeks to reduce risks of the conflict escalating.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was due to meet Turkey’s foreign minister in Ankara, hours after hundreds of people at a pro-Palestinian protest tried to storm an air base that houses US troops in southern Turkey.

Blinken on Sunday made an unannounced visit to the West Bank to meet Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who joined international calls for an immediate ceasefire.

Blinken repeated US concerns that a ceasefire could aid Hamas, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ruled one out for now. “There will be no ceasefire without the return of the hostages,” Netanyahu said.

Palestinian news agency WAFA had reported “unprecedented bombardment” from Israel, while telecoms provider Paltel reported another cut-off of communications and internet services.

Gaza’s health ministry said dozens of people were killed by the Israeli air strikes in Gaza City, and further south in Gaza neighbourhoods like Zawaida and Deir Al-Balah.

The IDF said its strikes hit “tunnels, terrorists, military compounds, observation posts, and anti-tank missile launch posts”. Ground troops killed several Hamas fighters while taking a militant compound with observation posts, training areas for Hamas operatives and underground terror tunnels, it said.

CIA CHIEF VISIT REPORTED

A senior Hamas commander, Jamal Mussa, who had headed the group’s special security operations, was among those killed, the IDF said.

Israel said 31 soldiers have been killed since it began expanded ground operations in Gaza on October 27, fighting thousands of Hamas fighters who believe they can hold off Israel’s advance in a warren of tunnels under the enclave.

A spokesman for Israel’s military told CNN late on Sunday that bombardments in northern Gaza were halted for several hours for two days in a row to allow civilians safe passage to move to the south of the narrow coastal strip.

Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Conricus added there was access to water and humanitarian goods in the south of Gaza, but Hamas was impeding convoys by firing on them. Reuters could not immediately verify his account.

US CIA Director William Burns was also set to visit Israel on Monday to discuss the war and intelligence with senior officials, the New York Times reported. Burns also will make stops in other Middle East countries to discuss the Gaza situation, the Times quoted an unnamed US official as saying.

The CIA did not respond to Reuters’ request for comment.

US Vice President Kamala Harris will call foreign leaders later on Monday to discuss the conflict and advance the administration’s efforts to increase the flow of humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza, her office said.

Jordan’s air force air-dropped urgent medical aid to the Jordanian field hospital in Gaza early on Monday, according to a post on X from Jordan’s king and reports in state media.

US Central Command, which covers the Middle East, said on X that an Ohio-class nuclear missile submarine had arrived in the region – an unusual announcement of a nuclear submarine’s position that was seen by some analysts as a message to Iran.

‘TORN-APART FLESH’

People searched for victims or survivors at the Maghazi refugee camp in Gaza, where the health ministry said Israeli forces had killed at least 47 people in strikes early on Sunday.

“All night I and the other men were trying to pick the dead from the rubble. We got children, dismembered, torn-apart flesh,” said Saeed al-Nejma, 53.

Asked for comment, the IDF said they were gathering details.

In a separate attack, 21 Palestinians from one family were killed in strikes, the health ministry said. The IDF declined to comment.

Reuters could not independently verify these accounts.

“We demand that you stop them from committing these crimes immediately,” Abbas told Blinken, urging an “immediate ceasefire” from Israel.

Palestinians were facing a war of “genocide and destruction”, news agency WAFA quoted Abbas as saying.

The war has inflamed Israeli-Palestinian violence elsewhere.

In East Jerusalem, Israeli police said a 16-year-old Palestinian stabbed and wounded two officers before being shot dead. In the occupied West Bank, another territory where Palestinians seek statehood, medics said a Palestinian was killed and three others wounded by Israeli army fire. A military spokesperson has no immediate comment on that incident.

Tensions increased with Lebanon after an Israeli strike on a car in the south of the country killed three children and their grandmother, Lebanese authorities said.

Israel’s military said it had attacked “terrorist targets of Hezbollah in southern Lebanon” in response to a missile attack against tanks that killed an Israeli citizen.

Hezbollah said it responded by firing rockets at Kiryat Shmona town in northern Israel. The group said it would never tolerate attacks on civilians and its response would be “firm and strong”.

– REUTERS

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