- LATEST DEVELOPMENT
- G7 foreign ministers meeting in Tokyo are calling for a humanitarian pause in the fighting and a “peace process”.
- An Israeli airstrike on Wednesday hit the Nusseirat refugee camp in central Gaza, killing two people, health officials said.
GAZA/JERUSALEM, Nov 8 (Reuters) – Airstrikes in the Gaza Strip killed a Hamas arms manufacturer and several fighters, the Israeli military said on Wednesday, as its air and ground offensive targeted the militants’ tunnel network under the besieged Palestinian enclave.
Gaza City, the militant group Hamas’ main stronghold in the territory, is surrounded by Israeli forces. The military said troops have advanced into the heart of the densely populated city, while Hamas says its fighters have suffered heavy casualties.
Witnesses said thousands of people left the northern areas and were heading south along a road controlled by Israeli tanks on Wednesday during a four-hour daily window that Israeli forces proclaimed for civilians to leave.
Thousands of others are still inside the besieged area, including at Gaza City’s main Al Shifa hospital, where Um Haitham Hejela was sheltering with her young children in a makeshift tent.
“The situation is getting worse day by day,” she said. “There is no food, no water. When my son goes to get water, he stands in line for three or four hours. They hit bakeries, we have no bread.”
As the war now enters its second month, UN officials and G7 nations stepped up calls for a humanitarian pause in hostilities to help ease the suffering in Gaza, where buildings have been flattened and basic supplies are running low. Palestinian officials say more than 10,000 people have been killed, 40% of them children.
The level of death and suffering is “difficult to fathom,” UN health agency spokesman Christian Lindmeier said in Geneva.
Israel struck Gaza in response to a Hamas raid on southern Israel on October 7, in which gunmen killed 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and took about 240 hostages, according to Israeli figures. The war has descended into the bloodiest episode in the generations-long conflict between Israel and Palestine.
Israel’s stated intention is to wipe out Hamas, the Islamist group that rules Gaza, by pounding it from the air, land and sea, while ground troops have moved in to split the narrow coastal strip in two in fierce urban fighting amid the ruins of buildings.
The Israeli military said Wednesday that two separate strikes eliminated a leading Hamas gunman, Mahsein Abu Zina, and fighters involved in anti-tank or surface-to-surface rocket fire.
Palestinian media reported clashes between militants and Israeli forces near al-Shati (Beach) refugee camp in Gaza City. Hamas’s armed wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, said its fighters had destroyed an Israeli tank in Gaza City.
Reuters was unable to confirm the battlefield claims from either side.
There was no further word from Israel on the possible fate of Yahya Sinwar, the most senior Hamas leader in Gaza and believed to be a key planner of the October 7 attacks. Israel said on Tuesday that he had been cornered in his bunker.
Chief military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said combat engineers used explosive devices to destroy a tunnel network built by Hamas that stretches hundreds of kilometers (miles) beneath Gaza.
Israeli tanks have faced heavy resistance from Hamas fighters, who use the tunnels to stage ambushes, according to sources with Hamas and the separate militant Islamic Jihad group. Israel says 33 of its soldiers have been killed.
ISRAEL SEEKS ‘INDEFINITE PERIOD’ OF CONTROL
Israelis have expressed fears that military operations could further endanger the hostages believed to be held in the tunnels. Israel says it will not agree to a ceasefire until the hostages are released. Hamas says it will not stop fighting while Gaza is under attack.
“I challenge (Israel) if up to this moment it has been able to record any military achievement on the ground, apart from killing civilians,” senior Hamas official Ghazi Hamad told Al Jazeera television.
The fighting is concentrated in the northern part of the Gaza Strip, and Israel has asked civilians to flee to the south, but it has also bombed southern areas.
In the largest southern city of Khan Younis, six Palestinians, including a young girl, were killed in a house that was hit, medics said. Reuters saw the bodies of the girl and at least two others arrive at a hospital.
Nearly two-thirds of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents are internally displaced, according to UN figures, and thousands seek refuge in hospitals, including in makeshift canvas huts in their parking lots.
Washington has backed Israel’s position that a ceasefire would help Hamas militarily. But US President Joe Biden said on Tuesday that he had urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to halt the fighting for humanitarian reasons.
Israel has so far been vague about its long-term plans if it achieves its stated goal of defeating Hamas. Netanyahu said on Tuesday that Israel would seek security responsibility for Gaza for an indefinite period after the war. But officials said Israel is not interested in governing the enclave.
‘NO FOOD, NO WATER’
An Israeli airstrike on Wednesday hit the Nusseirat refugee camp in central Gaza, killing two people, health officials said.
The United Nations says Gaza’s health system is close to collapse, battered by airstrikes, inundated with patients and running out of medicine and fuel.
“The longer we wait, the worse some patients will get. Many people will die simply because they do not have access to treatment,” said Osama Qadoumi, supervisor at Makassed Hospital.
G7 foreign ministers in Tokyo called for a humanitarian pause in the fighting and a “peace process”.
A joint statement said Israel had the right to defend itself, but civilians must be protected and international humanitarian law followed. A two-state solution “remains the only path to a just, lasting and secure peace,” it said.
One such solution, which envisions the creation of an independent country for Palestinians in the territory Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war, has long been the goal of international peace efforts, but the process has been moribund for years.
Saudi Arabia will host summits of Arab and Islamic nations in the coming days to push for a peaceful resolution to the conflict, a Saudi minister said.
Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi will travel to Riyadh on Sunday for the summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Etemadonline news reported, the first visit by an Iranian head of state since Tehran and Riyadh ended years of hostilities under a deal brokered by China in March.
Iran sponsors Hamas and applauded its attacks on Israel last month, although it denies being behind them.
Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza, Maytaal Angel, Emily Rose and Maayan Lubell in Jerusalem and Rami Amichay in Tel Aviv; writing by Michael Perry and Angus MacSwan; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Peter Graff
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