Israel squeezes Gaza cities ahead of rare UN vote
Israeli forces squeezed Gaza’s main cities Friday, two months after Hamas’s deadly attack sparked a war that has killed thousands, left the Palestinian territory in ruins, and triggered an extraordinary UN bid for a ceasefire.
Weeks of fighting have left 17,177 people dead in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the latest toll from Hamas which rules the coastal strip.
Vowing to destroy the Islamist movement, Israel has relentlessly bombarded Gaza and sent in tanks and ground troops since the war began on October 7 with unprecedented attacks by Hamas on southern Israel. Hamas militants killed about 1,200 people and took hostages, 138 of whom remain captive, Israel says.
Vast areas of Gaza have been reduced to a wasteland. The UN says about 80 percent of the population has been displaced, facing shortages of food, fuel, water and medicine, along with the threat of disease.
On Friday, the Hamas-run health ministry reported another 40 dead in strikes near Gaza City, and dozens more in Jabalia and Khan Yunis.
AFPTV live footage showed plumes of dark smoke over the territory’s north.
The death toll also rose in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where Israeli forces shot dead six Palestinians on Friday, the territory’s health ministry said.
An attack in Baghdad again raised fears of wider conflict. Salvoes of rockets targeted the US embassy in Baghdad’s Green Zone before dawn, US officials said.
– Blood stains –
This is the first attack against the US mission in Baghdad since the Israel-Hamas war began. Since mid-October there have been dozens of rocket or drone strikes by pro-Iran groups against American or coalition forces elsewhere in Iraq as well as in Syria.
In Gaza, fighting raged around cities in the centre and south, including Deir al-Balah, where ambulances carried numerous wounded.
“May God punish those who can see our suffering and remain calm,” said one Gazan, Rimah Mansi, who told AFP that “all those we love” were gone.
Further south, in Al-Katiba district of Khan Yunis, residents emerged to scenes of desolation after Israeli strikes, an AFP journalist said. On Thursday the wounded arrived at the city’s Nasser hospital, where blood stained the walls.
The fighting has pushed Gazans further and further south, turning Rafah near the Egyptian border into a vast camp for many of the 1.9 million displaced.
Israel’s military released footage of naval forces firing from the Mediterranean towards what it called Hamas infrastructure on shore. Other military video showed what it described as strikes on targets in Khan Yunis.
In a statement Friday, the military said it had killed “numerous” militants in Khan Yunis, part of “extensive battles” in Gaza, where around 450 targets were struck Thursday.
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