GAZA: Israeli troops and Hamas militants were locked in fierce ground combat in Gaza on Wednesday after the Israelis, fighting their way through the devastated Palestinian enclave, reached the heart of the southern city of Khan Younis.
Israeli warplanes also bombarded targets in one of the heaviest phases of warfare in the two months since the Hamas-Israel war began.
Palestinian medics said hospitals were overflowing with dead and wounded civilians, many of them women and children, and supplies were running out. Hundreds of thousands of people displaced from their homes were seeking shelter in a decreasing number of safe areas.
Palestinians inspect the site of Israeli strikes, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Khan Younis. /Ahmed Zakot/Reuters.
Israeli troops and tanks have pushed through to the southern part of the Gaza Strip after largely gaining control of the north in a campaign to eliminate Hamas. They have encircled Khan Younis in a surge of violence since a truce collapsed last week.
Israel said its forces were fighting fierce battles on Wednesday and had struck hundreds of targets in the enclave, including a militant cell near a school in the north.
Hamas’s armed wing, the al-Qassam Brigades, also said its fighters were engaged in clashes with Israeli forces.
Hamas said it had killed or wounded eight Israeli soldiers and destroyed 24 military vehicles on Tuesday. Israel said 84 of its soldiers had been killed since the ground operation began five weeks ago.
Nowhere to go
Fuel and medical supplies have reached critically low levels at the Al-Aqsa Hospital in central Gaza, and hundreds of patients need emergency care, Medecins Sans Frontieres said.
MSF emergency coordinator Marie-Aure Perreaut Revial said the hospital has been receiving on average 150 to 200 war-wounded patients daily since Dec. 1.
“There are 700 patients admitted in the hospital now, with new patients arriving all the time,” she said.
Since the truce collapsed, Israel has been posting an online map to tell Gazans which parts of the enclave to evacuate to avoid attacks. Khan Younis’s eastern quarter was marked on Monday, and many of its hundreds of thousands of residents took flight on foot.
But Gazans say there is no safe place, with remaining towns and shelters already overwhelmed, and Israel continuing to bomb the areas where it is telling people to go.
As the death toll in Gaza continues to rise, Gazans say there is now no safe place for them to go. /Raneen Sawafta/Reuters
Israel investigates Lebanon strike
The Israeli army said on Wednesday it was reviewing a strike that harmed Lebanese troops in south Lebanon, an apparent reference to Israeli shelling that killed a Lebanese soldier and wounded three others the previous day.
“The Lebanese Armed Forces were not the target of the strike. The IDF expresses regret over the incident. The incident is under review,” the Israeli military said in a statement.
Israel and the heavily armed Lebanese group Hezbollah have been exchanging fire across the Lebanese-Israeli border since the start of the war between the Palestinian group Hamas and Israel on Oct. 7.
The Lebanese army said the soldier, a sergeant, was killed when an army position was shelled by Israel on Tuesday.
The Israeli army said its soldiers had acted in “self defense to eliminate an imminent threat that had been identified from Lebanon” from a “known launch area and observation point” used by Hezbollah.