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March 2, 2024

Israel vows to push into Rafah as Hamas mulls truce

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Feb 2, 2024

Khan Younis offensive declared successful as IDF sets sights on Gaza’s south

The Israeli military has declared its offensive in Khan Younis a success after nearly two weeks of intense urban warfare in the central Gaza town. Israel is now vowing to push its forces south towards Rafah near the Egyptian border in an attempt to destroy the remaining Hamas strongholds.

“We have successfully dismantled the Hamas infrastructure in Khan Younis,” Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said on Thursday. “Most of the Hamas brigade commanders have been killed or captured. We will now focus our efforts on defeating Hamas in Rafah.”

The month-long war between Israel and Hamas erupted in January after the militant group launched a deadly drone attack on an Israeli border town. Since then, Gaza has experienced relentless airstrikes and a bruising ground invasion aimed at destroying Hamas’ military capabilities.

Rights groups estimate the war has so far killed nearly 5,000 Palestinians – including some 1,500 children – and over 150 Israelis. Israel contends the civilian death toll would be lower if Hamas was not using Gazans as “human shields.”

Exodus from Gaza’s south continues

With Khan Younis now under Israeli control, Gaza’s two million residents are fleeing en masse towards Rafah near the Egyptian border. The United Nations has warned Rafah could erupt into violence as resources dwindle for the influx of displaced Gazans.

Refugees fleeing from Khan Younis to Rafah

Refugees fleeing from Khan Younis to Rafah. Via Getty Images

“Rafah has become a pressure cooker of despair. Aid is unable to reach the area in sufficient quantities. Hundreds of thousands are crammed into a small area unable to escape,” UN Middle East envoy Tor Wennesland said.

The streets of Rafah are filled with long lines of vehicles loaded with people and belongings as they desperately try to flee further Israeli bombardment. But with the Egyptian and Israeli borders closed, there is nowhere left for them to seek refuge.

Local hospitals are also on the brink of collapse causing the death toll to climb by the day. Rights groups say the civilian population is being “collectively punished” for Hamas’ actions in violation of international law.

Hamas mulls truce proposal

With nowhere left to hide in Gaza, Hamas is said to be considering an Egyptian-brokered proposal for a two-year ceasefire with Israel.

The Islamist group has conditioned talks on Israel halting its military operation. But Israeli leaders have vowed to push forward into Rafah regardless of any diplomatic efforts.

“We will continue with the campaign until Hamas raises a white flag,” Gallant said. “They must pay a high price for attacking our citizens.”

Hamas’ political chief Ismail Haniyeh convened a leadership meeting on Wednesday night to discuss the truce offer. An unnamed Hamas official later told Reuters the group is working with mediators to negotiate terms but warned “we will not back down or raise the white flag despite the barbaric bombing of our people.”

The details of the Egyptian proposal have not been made public. Previous ceasefire deals between Hamas and Israel over the years have temporarily reduced violence but failed to achieve longer-term peace.

High death toll as sides dispute numbers

The sides presented vastly different death tallies more than three weeks into the war.

Israel estimates it has killed over 10,000 Hamas militants since launching its offensive. Hamas does not provide casualty figures for fighters but claims less than 300 of the nearly 5,000 Palestinian fatalities overall were combatants. Israel disputes this breakdown insisting the vast majority were fighters or civilians killed by Hamas rockets falling short inside Gaza.

The IDF’s Gaza Division commander Brig. Gen. Eliezer Toledano showed journalists organized grids of identity cards, weapons and ammunition he said were recovered during the Khan Younis incursion to back up the military’s contention that most fatalities were Hamas members. Rights groups have been unable to verify battlefield claims by either side.

|Fatalities Reported in 2024 Israel-Hamas War|
|-|
|Palestinians (Hamas claim)|4,846|
| – Civilians|4,500|
|- Militants |<300|
|Israelis (IDF claim)|156|
|Hamas/PIJ militants (IDF claim)|~10,000|

Tensions inside Israel have also risen with near daily rocket fire from Gaza and violent demonstrations by the Israeli Arab minority in solidarity with Palestinians. Meanwhile, Israel’s far-right politicians are facing international condemnation after ramping up rhetoric seen as a threat towards Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Outlook: Likely headed for prolonged war

With both sides refusing to back down, Israeli Defense Minister Gallant warned the fighting could drag on for “many months” despite the growing death toll and humanitarian crisis.

Israel insists the war is necessary to permanently degrade Hamas’ capabilities and prevent future attacks. It has carried out a relentless bombing campaign targeting Hamas commanders and infrastructure across Gaza for nearly a month.

Rights groups argue the drastically asymmetrical casualty figures highlight Israel’s disproportionate use of force under international law. But Israeli officials contend they take measures to avoid civilian casualties while Hamas deliberately endangers non-combatants.

With Hamas considering Egypt’s truce offer, all eyes are on Rafah to see whether diplomatic efforts can bring reprieve to the besieged enclave or if violence will continue to grip the impoverished territory and claim more lives.

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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.

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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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