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Israel-Hamas War Intensifies in Southern Gaza

Written by on December 6, 2023

Israeli troops and Hamas militants battled Wednesday in the Gaza Strip with the war putting increasing pressure on Palestinian civilians who are facing more difficulty finding shelter and access to humanitarian aid.

Israel’s military said Wednesday it had carried out airstrikes on about 250 targets in the Gaza Strip during the past day.

The United Nations reported a significant intensification of Israeli bombardments of Gaza since Monday afternoon, along with the intense ground fighting as well as an increase in rocket fire by Palestinian militants toward Israel.

Israeli military officials said their forces were encircling the southern city of Khan Younis, the second largest in Gaza.

The expansion of the war in southern Gaza followed an initial focus on areas in the north, including Gaza City. It also followed weeks of Israeli military orders for civilians to move to the south in order to stay away from the fighting.

But with the Mediterranean Sea to the west, and closed borders with Egypt and Israel to the south and east, the space for available for people to go to is shrinking.

The U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees says an estimated 1.9 million people are displaced within Gaza, amounting to nearly 85% of the population, and one million of them are registered at U.N. shelters in southern Gaza.

The U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said late Tuesday that for the third consecutive day, the Rafah area in southern Gaza was the only place where aid distributions were able to take place due to the fighting elsewhere.

“Nowhere is safe in Gaza,” U.N. emergency relief coordinator Martin Griffiths said. “Not hospital, not shelters, not refugee camps. No one is safe. Not children. Not health workers. Not humanitarians. Such blatant disregard for basic humanity must stop. The fighting must stop.”

Israel has accused Hamas of embedding itself in and underneath hospitals and other civilian areas and encouraging civilians to ignore Israeli warnings to evacuate ahead of airstrikes, in effect using them as human shields, an accusation Hamas has denied.

Israel began its military campaign to end Hamas’ rule of Gaza after Hamas fighters crossed into southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing about 1,200 people and taking about 240 people as hostages.

In its military offensive, Israel has killed at least 16,240 people in Gaza, 70% of them women and children, according to the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza.

Some information for this story came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.

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