© Reuters. Weapons and equipment that the Israeli military says it found in the Al Shifa hospital complex in the Gaza Strip, as shown in a photo released by the Israel Defense Forces on November 15, 2023. Israel Defense Forces/Handout via REUTERS
By Nidal al-Mughrabi and James Mackenzie
GAZA/JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel issued a new warning to Palestinians in the southern town of Khan Younis to move away from the line of fire and closer to humanitarian aid, in the latest indication that it plans to attack Hamas in southern Gaza after subduing it. the North.
“We’re asking people to move. I know it’s not easy for many of them, but we don’t want to see civilians caught in the crossfire,” said Mark Regev, an aide to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. , on MSNBC. Friday.
Such a move could force hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who fled south following the Israeli attack on Gaza City to resettle again, as well as residents of Khan Younis, a city of more than 400,000. , thus aggravating a serious humanitarian crisis.
Israel has vowed to wipe out the Hamas militant group that controls the Gaza Strip after its Oct. 7 rampage in Israel in which its fighters killed 1,200 people and dragged 240 hostages into the enclave.
Since then, Israel has bombed much of Gaza City, ordered the depopulation of the entire northern half of the narrow strip and left about two-thirds of the enclave’s 2.3 million Palestinians homeless. Many of those who fled fear their displacement will become permanent.
Gaza health authorities on Friday raised their death toll to more than 12,000, including 5,000 children. The United Nations considers these figures credible, although they are now rarely updated due to the difficulty of collecting information.
Israel dropped leaflets on Khan Younis asking people to evacuate to shelters, suggesting military operations there were imminent.
About 26 Palestinians, most of them children, were killed in an Israeli bombardment of the city early Saturday, the Palestinian news agency WAFA reported.
Regev said Israeli troops will have to advance into the city to drive Hamas fighters out of underground tunnels and bunkers, but that such “huge infrastructure” does not exist in less built-up areas to the west.
“I’m pretty sure they won’t need to move anymore” if they move west, he said, referring to area residents. “We are asking them to move to an area where hopefully there will be tents and a field hospital.”
Since the western areas are closer to the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, humanitarian aid could be delivered “as quickly as possible”, Regev said.
As the war enters its seventh week, there were no signs of slowing down, despite international calls for a ceasefire or at least humanitarian pauses.
“We have prepared for a long and sustained defense in all directions. The longer the occupying forces remain in Gaza, the greater their continued losses,” Hamas military wing spokesman Abu Ubaida said. in a video statement.
Violence has erupted in the occupied West Bank, with at least five Palestinians killed and two wounded in an Israeli strike on a building in the Balata refugee camp in the central city of Nablus, the Crescent ambulance service said on Saturday -Palestinian red.
There was no immediate comment from the Israeli military.
Amid warnings that the siege of Gaza would lead to famine and disease, Israel appeared to bow to international pressure on Friday, agreeing to allow the entry of fuel trucks and promising “no limitations” on aid requested by the Nations United.
Israel said it would allow two truckloads of fuel per day at Washington’s request to help the U.N. meet basic needs, and outlined plans to increase aid more broadly.
“We will increase the capacity of humanitarian convoys and trucks as long as it is necessary,” said Col. Elad Goren of COGAT, the Defense Ministry agency that coordinates administrative matters with the Palestinians, during a briefing. Press.
The remarks appeared to signal a change in tone after UN agencies warned that humanitarian conditions in Gaza were rapidly deteriorating, including a stark warning from the World Food Program of the “immediate possibility of famine”.
The White House said in a message on X, formerly known as Twitter, that fuel deliveries should “continue on a regular basis and in larger quantities.”
At Gaza’s largest hospital, Al Shifa, Israel said its forces found a vehicle with a large number of weapons and what it called a Hamas tunnel shaft.
The facility was a primary target of Israel’s ground attack and a center of international concern over the worsening humanitarian crisis.
The military released a video showing the entrance to a tunnel in an area outside the hospital. It appears the area has been searched. A bulldozer appeared in the background.
BABY, A HOSTAGE DIES
Israel has long maintained that the hospital is located above a vast underground bunker housing Hamas command headquarters. Hospital staff say this is false and that Israel’s findings so far have established no such thing.
Hamas denies using hospitals for military purposes.
Al Shifa staff said a premature baby died at the hospital on Friday, the first baby to die there in the two days after Israeli forces entered. Three of them had died in the previous days while the hospital was surrounded.
Hamas also announced the death of an Israeli prisoner, aged 85, it said, who died of a panic attack during an airstrike.
In Modiin, Israel, the family held the funeral of Noa Marciano, 19, an Israeli army conscript whose body was found Thursday in Gaza City near the hospital. She was kidnapped from a military base during the Hamas attack on October 7.