Israel launches strikes, orders evacuations in Southern Gaza

    WORLD  03 December 2023 - 17:20

    The Israeli military bombarded southern Gaza on December 2 and ordered residents of several Palestinian border towns in the area to leave their homes, appearing to set the stage for a ground invasion in the south as hostilities resumed after the collapse of a weeklong truce with Hamas.

    The Israeli demand for evacuations evoked similar orders the military gave before invading northern Gaza in late October, and it added to the fear and uncertainty hanging over Gaza’s 2.2 million people as a new phase appeared to begin in the nearly two-month war, The New York Times reports.

    Vice President Kamala Harris declared on Saturday that the United States fiercely opposes the forced relocation of Gaza residents outside the enclave as Israel resumes its bombardment aimed at Hamas terrorists, or in the days and weeks after the war eventually ends.

    In a statement after meeting with President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt in Dubai, officials said Ms. Harris forcefully rejected the idea of moving Palestinians into Egypt or to refugee camps elsewhere, as she offered her strongest statement to date urging Israel to reduce the harm to civilians from its air and ground campaigns.

    Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said Israel needed to better protect civilians and to allow more humanitarian aid into Gaza as it continued its war against Hamas or it would risk a strategic defeat.

    With the collapse of a weeklong cease-fire and the resumption of Israeli military operations that have begun to focus on southern Gaza, Biden administration officials have been pushing for more targeted strikes to try to avoid civilian casualties in Gaza. But Mr. Austin, a veteran of the Iraq war, has extensive experience in urban warfare and says he knows the difficulty of securing victories in such fighting.

    Yelena Trupanob, 50, a Russian Israeli hostage who was released from captivity in Gaza three days ago, had a message for the thousands of demonstrators who gathered in Tel Aviv on Saturday night to continue to pressure the Israeli government to make freeing the remaining hostages a top priority.

    “I came to say thank you,” Ms. Trupanob said. “Because without all of you, I wouldn’t be here.”

    As Israel’s renewed assault on Gaza entered a second day, residents once again found themselves in dire circumstances, trying to find a refuge in one of the most intense aerial bombardments of the 21st century while desperately searching for food, water and other basic supplies.

    On December 2, Shahd Safi, 22, a teacher and translator, said in a text message that she was once again hearing Israeli bombardment around her home in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, after a weeklong truce that brought some relief. “The situation is very dangerous,” she said.

    The fragile truce between Israel and Hamas collapsed on December 1 morning because the adversaries could not find common ground for further exchanges of hostages and prisoners, according to Israeli and Hamas officials.

    Publicly, Israel and Hamas blamed each other for military activity that violated the weeklong cease-fire. Israel said Hamas had fired rockets from Gaza into southern Israel, while Hamas said Israeli troop operations had resumed in northern Gaza. But two Israeli officials and Zaher Jabareen, a Hamas official who oversees prisoner issues, said the real reason the pause ended was a stalemate in prisoner-hostage swap negotiations.

    A university president and well-known physics professor was killed along with his family on Saturday in an Israeli airstrike in the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian Ministry of Higher Education said.

    The professor, Sofyan Taya, a longtime and prolific scholar in the field of optics who served as the president of the Islamic University of Gaza, was slain when Israeli warplanes hit buildings in Jabaliya just north of Gaza City, the ministry said. It did not identify the other members of his family.

    Representative Adam Smith, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, said on Friday that his home had been vandalized by people advocating for a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war.

    A spokeswoman for Mr. Smith said that the garage at the congressman’s home in Bellevue, Wash., had been marked with red paint that included messages calling for a cease-fire. His office provided images of messages that included “Baby Killer” and “Free Gaza” and “Cease Fire!”

    Israel released a total of 240 Palestinian prisoners and detainees in exchange for 105 hostages freed by Hamas during a weeklong pause in hostilities, an arrangement that diplomats had tried to extend before it collapsed into fighting on Friday morning.

    A New York Times analysis of data on the Palestinians released showed that a majority of them had not been convicted of a crime. There were 107 teenagers under 18, including three girls. Another 66 teenagers were 18 years old. The oldest person released was a 64-year-old woman.

    Caliber.Az

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