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March 3, 2024

Israel Launches Major Assault on Khan Yunis as Battles Rage in Gaza

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Jan 19, 2024

Israel continued its assault on the Gaza Strip this week, carrying out dozens of airstrikes across the coastal enclave. The heaviest fighting centered around the southern city of Khan Yunis, where Israel says it is targeting Palestinian militants. Health officials report that over 90 Palestinians have been killed since the latest escalation began on January 17.

Israel Pounds Khan Yunis, Killing 16 Civilians in Single Strike

On January 18, an Israeli missile slammed into a three-story building in the Rafah refugee camp near Khan Yunis, killing 16 displaced Palestinian civilians, including 8 children. The airstrike completely leveled the residential building. Images from Rafah show residents frantically searching the rubble for survivors.

Palestinian health officials say at least 23 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have been killed since Israel ramped up attacks on Khan Yunis and surrounding areas on January 17. The total death toll in Gaza is now just under 25,000 people since hostilities erupted in May 2021.

Missiles Strike Near Hospital Treating Wounded

Several missiles hit sites near Gaza’s Nasser Hospital in Khan Yunis on January 17. The blasts sent frightened families who had taken shelter there running into the streets.

Israel claims that Hamas fired rockets from inside the hospital compound on January 17. But the director of Nasser Hospital denies this accusation, saying the charges are false.

Regardless, human rights groups note that under international law, civilian sites like hospitals must not be attacked even if military activity is taking place there.

Ground Offensive Feared as Battles Rage

As missiles and artillery shells rained down around Khan Yunis and Rafah on January 17-18, many Palestinians feared Israel was about to launch a ground offensive into Gaza.

“We barely slept all last night from the terrifying sounds of explosions and heavy gunfire,” said Khan Yunis resident Rami Hmeid. “We feel trapped with nowhere to escape from the bombs.”

So far Israel has not sent ground troops across the border fence. However, Israeli forces remain poised along the Gaza perimeter and could invade at any time. Hamas leaders have vowed to turn Gaza into a “graveyard” for any invading soldiers.

Medicine and Aid Allowed In for Captive Soldiers

The current clashes around Khan Yunis began after Palestinian militants captured two Israeli soldiers near the border fence on January 16. The captors are demanding Israel free hundreds of Palestinian women and children from prison in exchange for the soldiers.

After initially refusing mediation attempts, Israel finally allowed a shipment of medicine and aid supplies into Gaza on January 18. A Qatari envoy delivered the humanitarian package, which the captors say they will distribute to the soldiers they are holding.

However, in his January 18 speech, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu insisted Israel would never agree to free convicted Palestinian prisoners in an exchange. This rejection leaves the fate of the captive troops uncertain.

International Community Calls for Restraint

The continuing bloodshed prompted condemnation from global leaders this week. Governments around the world urged both sides to avoid harming civilians and find a peaceful resolution.

In Washington, U.S. President Joe Biden called Netanyahu on January 17, urging Israel to exercise maximum restraint and safeguard innocent lives while pressing its military campaign. Secretary of State Kamala Harris echoed this sentiment after the strike on the displaced families’ home in Rafah.

Leaders of Muslim nations also strongly criticized the Israeli operations. Turkish President Erdogan called Israel’s actions “barbaric,” while Jordan accused Israel of severely damaging a Jordanian field hospital in Gaza. Israel denied this charge, providing photos that it says show only minor damage to clinic walls.

Background to the Current Crisis

Tensions leading to the latest violence escalated in early January, when Israeli forces launched arrest raids across the occupied West Bank after a series of deadly attacks in Israeli cities. Over 150 Palestinians and some 30 Israelis have been killed in attacks and clashes since late 2022.

During the West Bank raids, Israel re-arrested dozens of former Palestinian prisoners who had been freed in a 2011 swap to free captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. These re-arrests angered Palestinian militant groups, who then vowed to capture Israeli soldiers and citizens to negotiate another prisoner release.

What Comes Next?

As the fighting stretches into its third day around Khan Yunis, both Israeli and Hamas leaders signal they are prepared to continue battling one another for the foreseeable future. Each side hopes to gain leverage for negotiating over key issues like lifting Gaza’s blockade and releasing prisoners.

But the mounting civilian deaths have increased pressure on Israel and Hamas to end the bloodshed. If diplomacy ultimately prevails, resolving the prisoner impasse could open the door to a longer-term ceasefire. However, such an outcome may still remain elusive amidst the chaotic fog of war still enveloping the region.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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