Home International More Palestinians displaced as Israel battles Hamas in southern Gaza

More Palestinians displaced as Israel battles Hamas in southern Gaza

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Medical facilities are at risk of collapse in Khan Younis, the southern Gaza city now at the focus of Israel’s offensive, the Gaza Health Ministry warned on Sunday, as fighting raged across the Palestinian enclave.

Israeli soldiers operate in the Gaza Strip amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in this handout picture released on January 28, 2024. Picture: Israel Defense Forces, Handout via Reuters

By Nidal Al-Mughrabi and Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

DOHA/GAZA – Medical facilities are at risk of collapse in Khan Younis, the southern Gaza city now at the focus of Israel’s offensive, the Gaza Health Ministry warned on Sunday, as fighting raged across the Palestinian enclave.

Residents said Israeli planes and tanks also pounded areas in Gaza City to the north, where Israel has slowly been pulling out troops. The fighting could be heard in the nearby towns of Beit Lahiya and Jabalia, near to Gaza City.

Israel’s military said it was engaged in “intensive battles” in Khan Younis, where it said troops “eliminated terrorists and located large quantities of weapons”.

The armed wing of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad said fighters clashed with Israeli troops in several areas across the enclave overnight. Hamas’ armed wing said its fighters destroyed two Israeli tanks in Khan Younis.

The latest fighting came as UN officials and aid groups urged countries to reconsider their decision to pause funding for the UN refugee agency for Palestinians, a vital source of aid in Gaza. At least nine countries have paused funding following allegations by Israel that some of UNRWA’s staff were involved in the deadly October 7 Hamas attacks on Israel.

Gaza Health Ministry spokesperson Ashraf Al-Qidra said 165 Palestinians were killed and 290 wounded in the past 24 hours, bringing the total killed in Israeli strikes since the war began to 26,422. Officials in the Hamas-ruled territory do not distinguish between militants and civilians in their count.

One strike on a house in a suburb of Gaza City killed eight people, health officials said.

Israel launched a war it says aims to eliminate Hamas after the militants’ unprecedented cross-border assault, in which 1,200 people were killed and 240 abducted, according to Israeli officials.

HEALTH-CARE SYSTEM FAILURE

Palestinian medics and residents said Israel continued to bomb areas around the two main hospitals in Khan Younis, hindering efforts by rescue teams to respond to desperate calls from people caught in the Israeli bombardment.

“There is a complete failure of the health-care system at Nasser and Al-Amal hospitals,” said Qidra.

Israel says it takes steps to avoid civilian casualties, but accuses Hamas of operating in densely populated areas, including those around hospitals, and using civilians as human shields. It has released photos and videos supporting this allegation, which the Islamist group denies.

The Palestinian Red Crescent Society said in a statement that medical teams at Al-Amal Hospital in Khan Younis would be unable to perform surgeries because oxygen supplies were depleted.

More families were displaced from Khan Younis on Sunday. Some people took dirt roads to get closer to the city of Rafah along the border with Egypt or Deir Al-Balah to the north. Others headed west to an area called Al-Mawasi where residents described being crammed into a small area.

“It is as crowded as it can get,” said electrician Abu Raouf, a father of four. “People have lost their ability to think, their ability to feel, they are moving like robots, it is just a matter of time before Israel sends tanks into here as well, there is no place safe.”

Reem Abu Tair left Khan Younis in the cold with three children, one of them an infant.

“We managed to save our lives, we escaped bombings and the destruction that is surrounding us only to end up in the cold. So, if a child does not die from the bombing, he will die from the cold,” Abu Tair said.

– REUTERS

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