| 27 February 2024, Tuesday |

Israel Calls for More Evacuations in Southern Gaza as it Widens Offensive

Israel’s military called for more evacuations in southern Gaza as it widened its offensive aimed at eliminating the territory’s Hamas rulers. The war has already killed thousands of Palestinians and displaced over three-fourths of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents, who are running out of safe places to go.

The Health Ministry in Gaza said the death toll in the territory since Oct. 7 has surpassed 15,500, with more than 41,000 wounded. The ministry does not differentiate between civilian and combatant deaths, but said 70% of the dead were women and children.

Israel says it targets Hamas operatives and blames civilian casualties on the militants, accusing them of operating in residential neighborhoods. It claims to have killed thousands of militants, without providing evidence. Israel says at least 81 of its soldiers have died.

Hopes for another temporary truce faded after Israel called its negotiators home over the weekend. Hamas said talks on releasing more of the scores of hostages seized by Palestinian militants on Oct. 7 must be tied to a permanent cease-fire, The Associated Press reported.

The United States, along with Qatar and Egypt, which mediated the earlier cease-fire, say they are working on a longer truce.

Israel expanded its offensive against Hamas in besieged Gaza on Monday, as international concern deepened over the mounting civilian death toll in a war sparked by the October 7 attacks.

Over the weekend, Israeli air strikes on northern Gaza threw thick clouds of smoke and dust into the sky.

On Sunday, the Israeli army reported a string of rocket salvos from Gaza into Israel, adding that most had been intercepted.

The Hamas-run government in Gaza and the official Palestinian news agency Wafa said a strike had hit the entrance of the Kamal Adwan hospital in the north of the territory late Sunday.

Several people were killed in the strike, the news agency said, while Hamas accused Israel on Telegram of a “grave violation” of humanitarian law.

Contacted by AFP, the Israeli military did not immediately comment on the alleged strike.

Fighting resumed between the two sides on Friday despite international calls for an extension.

The mounting death toll in Gaza has sparked growing international concern over Israel’s conduct of the war to eradicate Hamas.

On Sunday, hospitals in southern Gaza were overflowing with dead and wounded, some crying out in pain.

“I am running out of ways to describe the horrors hitting children here,” James Elder, a spokesman for the United Nations children’s agency UNICEF, said in a video from Nasser hospital in Khan Yunis.

“This is the worst bombardment of the war right now in south Gaza. I am seeing massive child casualties,” he said in the video, posted on X, formerly Twitter.

Nine-year-old Huda, who was wounded in the head, arrived at the Deir al-Balah hospital with an International Committee of the Red Cross convoy bringing casualties from northern Gaza.

“She doesn’t answer me any more,” her father Abdelkarim Abu Warda said, sobbing.

Israel’s ally the United States, which provides it with billions of dollars in military aid annually, has intensified calls for the protection of Gaza’s civilians.

“Too many innocent Palestinians have been killed,” Vice President Kamala Harris told reporters at UN climate talks in Dubai.


  • Asharq Al-Awsat