Israel has launched a major ground offensive into southern Gaza, pushing troops and tanks into densely populated areas in an escalation of fighting against Palestinian militant groups. The fierce urban warfare has displaced thousands of civilians as both sides wage all-out war.
Israel Widens Offensive, Orders Evacuations
After over a week of aerial bombardments across Gaza, Israel has opened a new front by sending ground forces deep into the territory’s south (Fox News). Troops and tanks have moved into the city of Khan Younis, encountering fierce resistance from militants. Israel has also intensified airstrikes, hitting over 200 targets on Thursday alone (Guardian).
With combat raging in civilian areas, Israel has ordered the evacuation of nearly 100,000 Gazans from border regions (Economist). Tens of thousands have fled their homes, but shelters are overflowing and Gazans are running out of places to seek safety (Military.com). Israel has warned it will soon cut power and water, worsening humanitarian conditions (HRW).
|Evacuation Zones in Southern Gaza
|Khan Younis City
Bloody Urban Warfare in Gaza City, Khan Younis
The heaviest clashes are occurring in Gaza’s second-largest city, Khan Younis. Battles have left its streets strewn with rubble and twisted metal as militants counterattack Israeli armor (NY Post). Ahmed, a resident, described nonstop tank and artillery fire. “We are living real hell…we don’t know where to go,” he said (France24).
Fighting has also engulfed neighborhoods of Gaza City. The Associated Press reports that an Israeli strike killed a senior Islamic Jihad commander in the Tel al-Hawa district. Militants have launched over 1,100 rockets in retaliation, reaching as far as Tel Aviv (AP).
Over 200 Palestinians Killed So Far
After 11 days of escalating violence, Gaza’s Health Ministry reports at least 230 Palestinians have been killed, including 65 children. Over 1,600 have been wounded (Guardian). With intensive care units flooded with casualties and medical supplies dwindling, hospitals are overwhelmed and doctors describe “hellish” conditions (NBC).
On the other side, Palestinian rocket fire has killed 12 civilians in Israel. While warning sirens drive Israelis into shelters, the Iron Dome defense system has intercepted over 96% of incoming rockets (IDF).
International Ceasefire Efforts Fail
The U.N. Secretary General has demanded an immediate halt to fighting, warning Gaza faces an “uncontainable security and humanitarian crisis” if bombardments continue (U.N. News). However, international ceasefire mediation has so far failed to stop the mounting violence.
Analysts say domestic politics is part of why the fighting persists (Al Jazeera). Israel faces elections in March, and Prime Minister Netanyahu may want to appear tough on militants. Additionally, the military saw an opportunity to strike Islamic Jihad while limiting rocket fire by isolating the group from governing party Hamas.
With neither side backing down, experts warn the war could continue for months. Israel’s Defense Minister has predicted two more months of fighting to fully degrade militant capabilities (ABC). The coming weeks could see even fiercer urban combat and further hardship for Gaza’s 2 million residents.
Background: Months of Rising Tensions
Tensions leading to the current crisis escalated in August when Israel launched arrests and raids in the West Bank after a series of deadly attacks in its cities. Firefights during those operations killed over 150 Palestinians (Al Jazeera background).
Islamic Jihad then threatened retaliation over Israel restricting militant group members’ movements in the West Bank. After Israel launched strikes killing an Islamic Jihad leader in Gaza on December 2nd, the group fired rockets, igniting the current war (Al Jazeera analysis).
With the bloodiest fighting since 2021’s 11-day Gaza war, the coming days and weeks will determine whether negotiators can achieve a ceasefire or if the crisis escalates towards even more catastrophic conflict.
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