Israel tightens ‘stranglehold’ around Gaza City

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Smoke billowed over the densely populated coastal area as fighting raged more than a month after Hamas attacks killed 1,400 people in Israel, sparking Gaza’s deadliest war ever.

According to the Hamas-led Health Ministry in Gaza, the Israeli military campaign has killed more than 10,300 people, including many children.

Israel has set its sights on destroying Hamas and said its ground forces are advancing in pursuit of the militants who have a deep network of tunnels and underground bases.

“(Israeli forces) are tightening the stranglehold around Gaza city,” Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said late Tuesday.

People waving white flags have fled the fighting, while steadily rising tolls have forced vehicles from donkey-drawn carts to bulldozers to transport the dead.

International concern over the fate of Gaza’s civilians, most of whom cannot escape the sealed-off area, has led to calls for a ceasefire.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that no fuel will be delivered to Gaza and that there will be no ceasefire with Hamas unless more than 240 hostages seized by Palestinian militants are released.

G7 foreign ministers said they supported “humanitarian pauses and corridors” in the war between Israel and Hamas, but did not call for a ceasefire.

– ‘Death and suffering’ –

As fighting intensifies in Gaza, families of Israelis held hostage by Hamas have urged on several fronts for help to bring their loved ones home.

“Every day is an eternity for me and I can’t wait any longer,” Doris Liber, whose 26-year-old son Guy Iluz was shot and held hostage at a music festival, told reporters in Washington on Tuesday.

Yonatan Lulu Shamriz, who lived in kibbutz Kfar Aza on the Gaza border where his brother Alon was kidnapped, said: “This is a call to action… this is a wake-up call for all of you here, all of you. of America, all of Europe.”

Military analysts warned of weeks of grueling house-to-house fighting in Gaza, with around 30 Israeli soldiers already killed in the offensive.

The operation is extremely complicated for Israel because of the hostages, including very young children and vulnerable elderly people, who are believed to be held in an extensive tunnel network.

In densely populated Gaza – where more than 1.5 million people have fled their homes in a desperate search for safety – the suffering is immense.

According to the World Health Organization, an average of 160 children are killed every day in Gaza by the war.

“The level of death and suffering is difficult to fathom,” said WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier.

Hamas’s media office said on Telegram that several cemeteries in Gaza “ran out of space for burials,” while the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said most sewage pumping stations in the area were closed.

Israel accuses Hamas of building military tunnels under hospitals, schools and mosques – accusations the militant group denies.

OCHA says Israel has ordered all 13 hospitals still operating in northern Gaza to evacuate patients.

– US against reoccupation –

Netanyahu has said Israel will take over “overall security” in Gaza after the war ends, while Ron Dermer, Israel’s Strategic Affairs Minister, said the prime minister was not referring to a future reoccupation of the territory.

Israel withdrew its troops from the area it captured in 2005 during the 1967 Six-Day War.

“After Hamas is removed from power, after we dismantle this infrastructure, Israel will have to retain coercive security responsibility indefinitely,” Dermer told MSNBC television.

Key ally Washington said it opposed a long-term occupation of Gaza.

Speaking to reporters after G7 foreign ministers held talks in Japan, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken listed what he said are “key elements” to creating “lasting peace and security.”

“The United States believes that the key elements should be: no forced relocation of Palestinians from Gaza, not now or after the war; no use of Gaza as a platform for terrorism or other violent attacks; no reoccupation of Gaza after the conflict ends.” he said.

In the occupied West Bank, Blinken suggested on Sunday that the Palestinian Authority under President Mahmud Abbas should regain control of Gaza.

The PA exercises only limited autonomy in parts of the West Bank, and Abbas said it could only come to power in Gaza if a “comprehensive political solution” is found to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“Across Gaza, helpless people are losing their relatives, homes and their own lives, while world leaders fail to take meaningful action,” the medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said.

In its statement, MSF described how a staff member was killed along with his family in Gaza’s Shati refugee camp on Monday when the area was bombed.

– ‘We don’t want war’ –

Israel has bombarded Gaza with more than 12,000 air and artillery strikes and sent ground troops that have effectively halved the area.

Leaflets have been air-dropped and text messages sent ordering civilians in northern Gaza to flee south, but a US official said on Saturday that at least 350,000 civilians remained in the worst-hit areas.

While holding one of her toddlers, Amira al-Sakani said she fled Gaza City after encountering the air-dropped Israeli kites.

“Our lives are tragic; we don’t want war… we want peace,” she added.

The International Committee of the Red Cross, which said one of its humanitarian convoys in Gaza was hit by gunfire on Tuesday, demanded an end to civilian suffering.

“Children have been torn from their families and held hostage. In Gaza, ICRC surgeons are treating toddlers whose skin is charred from widespread burns,” said Mirjana Spoljaric, president of the organization.

The convoy of five trucks and two Red Cross vehicles was carrying supplies to health facilities, including Al-Quds Hospital, when it was hit, an ICRC statement said, adding that two trucks were damaged and a driver slightly injured.


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