Israeli operations “completed” in eastern Gaza City


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July 11, 2024 – 01:57

(Keystone-ATS) The Israeli army announced Wednesday evening that it had completed its operations launched on June 27 in Shujaiya, a neighborhood in eastern Gaza City that has been the scene of heavy fighting since that date. The offensive was extended Monday to the city center neighborhoods.

The offensive allowed the dismantling of “eight tunnels” and the elimination of “dozens of terrorists” as well as the destruction of “combat bases and booby-trapped buildings”, according to a military statement.

The Israeli army on Wednesday called on all residents to evacuate Gaza City, the main city in the besieged Palestinian territory. Thousands of leaflets, calling on “all people” to evacuate via “safe corridors,” were dropped over Gaza City, in the north of the territory.

The leaflets warn that the already partly destroyed city, where there were 300,000 to 350,000 people according to the UN, remains “a dangerous combat zone”.

New discussions in Qatar

Ground troops, backed by tanks and aerial bombardment, have been engaged in intense fighting against Hamas and its allies, the most violent in Gaza City since the start of the war, which has already forced tens of thousands of residents to flee.

These new guidelines “will only add to the mass suffering for Palestinian families, many of whom have been displaced multiple times,” warned UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric, on Wednesday.

After months of unsuccessful diplomatic efforts, new talks are due to begin in Qatar to try to move towards a ceasefire and the release of hostages taken during the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7, which triggered the war.

An Israeli delegation led by Mossad chief David Barnea arrived in Doha on Wednesday, according to a source close to the negotiations. CIA Director William Burns was also expected.

A “ghost town”

The army announced on Wednesday that soldiers had carried out “an operation against Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists who were using the headquarters of UNRWA,” the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees in Gaza City, “as a base to launch attacks,” and had “eliminated terrorists.”

According to UNRWA Commissioner General Philippe Lazzarini, the fighting in recent days has forced 350,000 people onto the roads, while almost the entire population of the territory has already been displaced by the war.

“This is the 12th time we have been displaced. How many more times will we have to endure this? A thousand times? Where will we end up?” said Umm Nimr al-Jamal, a Palestinian woman who fled Gaza City with her family.

The civil defense spokesman and witnesses said Israeli forces had withdrawn from Shujaiya. The neighborhood had become “a ghost town,” the spokesman said. AFP footage on Wednesday showed residents of Shujaiya walking through rubble in a devastated landscape.

Fighting in Rafah too

Fighting also raged in the south of the territory, where Israeli tanks entered the center of Rafah, according to witnesses who reported intense gunfire in the town on the border with Egypt.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant claimed that the army had “eliminated or wounded 60 percent” of Hamas fighters during the nine-month war.

On Tuesday evening, for the fourth time in four days, an Israeli strike hit a school sheltering displaced people in Abassan, near Khan Younis, in the south, killing 29 people including children, according to a medical source and Hamas. The army said it was targeting “terrorists”. Paris and Berlin condemned these strikes.

The war broke out on October 7 after an attack by Hamas commandos infiltrated from Gaza into southern Israel, which resulted in the death of 1,195 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP count based on official Israeli data. Of the 251 people kidnapped at the time, 116 are still being held in Gaza, 42 of whom are dead, according to the army.

In response, Israel vowed to destroy Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2007, and launched a military offensive that has so far killed 38,243 people, mostly civilians, according to the health ministry of the Hamas-run Gaza government.

In a meeting Wednesday in Jerusalem with White House Middle East coordinator Brett McGurk, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated his commitment to a ceasefire agreement “as long as Israel’s red lines are respected.”

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