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Gazans flee Israeli assault that Hamas warns could threaten ceasefire bid

Gazans flee Israeli assault that Hamas warns could threaten ceasefire bid

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"Gaza City is being wiped out, this is what is happening. Israel is forcing us to leave homes under fire," Um Tamer, a mother of seven, told Reuters via a chat app.

Reuters

Publisted at 4:53 PM, Tue Jul 9th, 2024

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Gaza City residents fled under Israeli fire as tanks thrust deeper into the heart of the city on Tuesday, the second day of a stepped-up military offensive that Palestinian militant group Hamas said could jeopardise ceasefire talks.

Qatari and Egyptian mediators, backed by the United States, have accelerated their efforts this week to seal a ceasefire deal aimed at ending the Gaza war and releasing Israeli hostages in the enclave in return for Palestinian prisoners jailed in Israel.

On Tuesday, Israeli tanks deepened their incursion into some Gaza City districts including Shejaia, Sabra and Tel Al-Hawa, where residents reported the previous day some of the most fierce fighting since the start of the war between Israel and the Islamist Hamas.

Footage circulated on social media on Tuesday showed families packed onto donkey carts and in the backs of trucks piled with mattresses and other belongings racing through the city's streets to flee areas under Israeli evacuation orders.

"Gaza City is being wiped out, this is what is happening. Israel is forcing us to leave homes under fire," Um Tamer, a mother of seven, told Reuters via a chat app.

She said it was the seventh time her family had fled their house in Gaza City, in the north of the enclave and one of Israel's first targets at the start of the war in October.

"We can't take it anymore, enough of death and humiliation. End the war now," she said.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said all of its medical clinics were out of service in Gaza City due to the evacuation orders.

The assault has unfolded as senior US officials were in the region pushing for a ceasefire after Hamas made concessions last week. But the renewed campaign "could bring the negotiation process back to square one," Hamas quoted leader Ismail Haniyeh as saying on Monday.

The armed wings of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad said they fought against Israeli forces in Tel Al-Hawa with anti-tank rockets and mortar fire, and inflicted casualties. There was no immediate response from the Israeli military on those claims.

In a statement, the Israeli military said troops were continuing operations in Gaza City, following intelligence indicating the presence of Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the area. It said Israeli forces had taken dozens of fighters out of action and located numerous weapons.

HOPES OF A PAUSE
Palestinian health officials said Israeli airstrikes on Tuesday killed six people in a house in Gaza City, nine in two houses in Al-Nuseirat and Deir Al-Balah in central Gaza and three people in Rafah on the Gaza Strip's southern edge.

An Israeli strike against a group of Palestinians in Al-Bureij camp in central Gaza Strip killed at least seven people, most of them children, medics said

The war was triggered Oct. 7 when fighters led by Hamas attacked southern Israel, killing 1,200 people and taking around 250 hostages, according to Israeli figures.

More than 38,000 Palestinians have been killed in the Israeli military offensive since then, according to Gaza health officials.

Hopes among Gazans of a pause in the fighting had revived after Hamas last week accepted a key part of a US ceasefire proposal. But gaps still remain between the two sides, the White House national security spokesperson John Kirby said on Monday.

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insists the deal must not prevent Israel from resuming fighting until it meets its war objectives, including wiping out Hamas as a threat.

A Palestinian official close to the mediation efforts said Israel must make the next move.

"It is all up to Netanyahu now," the official said on Tuesday. "Hamas made its position clear and showed flexibility enough to make a deal possible, but even the Israelis are saying it is all up to Netanyahu and whether he wants a deal."

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