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Israel orders evacuation of all Palestinians from Gaza City as it launches fresh offensive

Dozens of people have been killed in the last 38 hours as Israel ramped up its military offensive in Gaza. Meanwhile, mediators from the US, Egypt and Qatar met Israeli officials in Doha to push for a ceasefire deal after months of negotiations.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Gaza City Published on: July 11, 2024 12:30 IST
Israel Hamas war
Image Source : REUTERS Palestinians walk past the rubble of houses destroyed during the Israeli military offensive.

Gaza: The Israeli military on Wednesday urged all Palestinians from Gaza City and head south as it pushes forward with a fresh offensive across the north, south and centre of the embattled territory that has killed dozens of people over the past 48 hours. The fresh offensive threatens to derail monthslong ceasefire talks as mediators from the US, Egypt and Qatar met Israeli officials in Doha for negotiations.

Israel claims its motives for a renewed offensive is to pursue Hamas fighters that are regrouping in various parts of Gaza after nine months of the war in the besieged territory. Heavy strikes in recent days along the length of the territory are likely to be aimed at putting more pressure on Hamas in the ceasefire talks. Israel’s military chief Herzi Halevi, in a visit to central Gaza, said forces were operating in different ways, in multiple parts of the territory “to carry out a very important mission: pressure".

Israel informed people in Gaza of the evacuation order by dropping leaflets urging “all those in Gaza City” to take two “safe routes” south to the area around the central town of Deir al-Balah. Gaza City, it said, will “remain a dangerous combat zone.” Notably, people were ordered to evacuate from Gaza City months ago when it was the centre of fighting between Israel and Hamas, and large parts of the city have been flattened since then.

Dozens killed in Gaza in last few days

Israel on Monday called for an evacuation from eastern and central parts of Gaza City, staff at two hospitals — Al-Ahli and the Patients Friends Association Hospital – rushed to move patients and shut down, the United Nations said. Several patients were transferred to a hospital in northern Gaza, which itself was the site of heavy fighting earlier in the war. 

Israeli bombardment early Wednesday hit four houses in Deir al-Balah and the nearby Nuseirat refugee camp, killing 20 Palestinians, including six children and three women. A fresh Israeli airstrike on a school-turned-shelter in southern Gaza killed at least 31 people as advancing tanks in Gaza City forced residents to flee and heavy bombardment shut down medical facilities, according to Palestinian authorities. Earlier airstrikes in central Gaza killed at least 14 people, including a woman and four children, according to two hospitals that received the bodies.

There was no immediate mass exodus from the city following Wednesday’s order. Many Palestinians have concluded that there is no refuge in war-stricken Gaza. Meanwhile, the Israeli military said it wrapped up an operation launched in June in the Gaza City neighborhood of Shijaiyah, where it killed dozens of militants and destroyed eight underground tunnels.

Ceasefire talks

In nine months of bombardment and offensives in Gaza, Israel has killed more than 38,200 people and wounded more than 88,000, according to the territory’s Health Ministry, in retaliation for Hamas' unprecedented attack on October 7 that killed 1,200 people in Israel, mostly civilians.  

The latest fighting has unfolded as senior US officials were in the region to push for a ceasefire after Hamas made concessions last week. But Israel's renewed campaign threatened talks at a crucial time and could bring negotiations "back to square one", Hamas quoted leader Ismail Haniyeh as saying. Hopes for a truce had increased after Hamas recently accepted a US proposal to begin talks on releasing Israeli hostages.

However, the White House said the US remained "cautiously optimistic" about the Gaza ceasefire plan, adding that the differences between Israel and Hamas could be narrowed. US President Joe Biden in late May detailed a proposal of three phases aimed at achieving a ceasefire, the release of hostages in Gaza and Palestinian prisoners held by Israel, Israel's withdrawal from Gaza and the rebuilding of the coastal enclave.

Meanwhile, Biden's administration will resume shipping 500-pound bombs to Israel but will continue to hold back on supplying 2,000-pound bombs over concerns about their use in densely populated Gaza, according to a US official. The US in May paused a shipment of 2,000-pound and 500-pound bombs due to their use in Rafah.

(with inputs from agencies)

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