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Israel Tells Palestinians To Leave 4 Southern Gaza Towns

  • World, NEWS
  • 5 min read

Israel ordered Palestinians to leave four towns in southern Gaza on Thursday, signaling a possible expansion of its war against Hamas militants into areas where Israeli officials had told people it was safe to stay.

Israel dropped leaflets from aircraft overnight, telling civilians to leave the towns of Bani Shuhaila, Khuzaa, Abassan and Qarara, on the eastern edge of Khan Younis, the main southern city.

“For your safety, you need to evacuate your places of residence immediately and head to known shelters,” the leaflets said. “Anyone near terrorists or their facilities puts their life at risk, and every house used by terrorists will be targeted.”

Residents in the area said there was a heavy Israeli bombardment overnight.

Hours later, the Israeli military said it had recovered the body of Yehudit Weiss, one of the 240 hostages captured by Hamas in its October 7 attack on the Jewish state. The military said it had found her body near the Shifa Hospital in Gaza City.

The 65-year-old woman was the mother of five and was abducted from a kibbutz during the Hamas attack. Her husband, Shmulik Weiss, was found dead in the safe room of their home.

Israeli troops continued to search the Shifa Hospital facility, which it raided on Wednesday in the belief it was a Hamas command center. Israel displayed weapons it said it found at the hospital, but Hamas said no arms were found.

Israel’s army on Thursday released a video of what it said showed a tunnel entrance that Hamas militants used in an outdoor area of Shifa Hospital. The video, which could not be immediately verified, showed a deep hole in the ground surrounded by concrete and sand.

In a statement late Thursday, Hamas again rejected claims that the militant group uses the hospital for military purposes as “a repetition of a blatantly false narrative, demonstrated by the weak and ridiculous performances of the occupation army spokesman.”

If Israel expands its military offensive in south Gaza, it threatens to worsen the already severe humanitarian crisis in the besieged territory. More than 1.5 million people have been internally displaced in Gaza, with most having fled, at Israel’s directive, to the south, where food, water and electricity are in diminishing supply.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Israeli War Cabinet member Benny Gantz about efforts to increase and speed up the delivery of humanitarian assistance into Gaza, the U.S. State Department said Thursday.

During their discussion, Blinken also underscored the need to de-escalate tensions in the West Bank, including by addressing increased extremist settler violence, the State Department added.

Blinken also spoke with Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry about increasing aid to Palestinians in need, the State Department said.

Palestinian authorities in Gaza say more than 11,000 people — about 40% of them children — have been killed since Israel launched a major air and ground offensive in response to the October 7 attack by Hamas militants on southern Israel that killed 1,200 people.

National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said Thursday that the United States won’t share any Israeli intelligence or elaborate on its own intelligence assessment that Hamas used Shifa Hospital as a command center and potentially a storage facility.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Security Council late Wednesday adopted a resolution calling for “urgent and extended humanitarian pauses” in Gaza. Twelve council members voted in favor, while none voted against and three — the United States, Russia and the United Kingdom — abstained. Hamas has been designated a terrorist organization the U.S., U.K, EU and others.

Israel’s deputy permanent representative said the resolution was “detached from the reality on the ground.”

The resolution that passed also called for “the immediate release of all hostages held by Hamas.”

Negotiations are reportedly under way on a proposed deal under which Hamas would release at least 50 women and children it is holding as hostages in Gaza in exchange for Palestinian women and children held in Israeli prisons.

Hamas took an estimated 240 Israeli and foreign hostages during the surprise attack it carried out in Israel on October 7.

Hamas said about 650 patients and 5,000 to 7,000 Palestinian civilians have taken shelter on the hospital grounds.

After the hospital raid, U.S. President Joe Biden spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about the latest developments in the war. The White House said they discussed at length the ongoing efforts to secure the release of hostages, including nine Americans and a foreign national with U.S. employment rights.

As its military incursion advances, Israel has rejected growing and intense international pressure to impose a cease-fire to allow for the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza. It has, however, agreed to four-hour daily humanitarian pauses to allow the opening of two corridors to let Palestinians evacuate northern Gaza.

VOA News