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Thousands of Palestinians Flee Southern Gaza Under Intense Israeli Bombardment

Image Source: hindustantimes.com

Israeli forces bombarded several areas of the southern Gaza Strip on Tuesday, prompting thousands of Palestinians to flee their homes. This could signal a final push in Israel’s intensive military operations during the nine-month conflict.

Health officials reported that eight Palestinians were killed and dozens wounded. The Israeli military stated that two soldiers had been killed in battle the previous day. Israeli leaders indicated they were winding down the phase of intense fighting against Hamas, the Islamist group governing Gaza since 2007, and would soon transition to more targeted operations.

Later on Tuesday, medics reported that 17 Palestinians were killed by Israeli tank shelling in the densely populated Zeitoun neighborhood in Gaza City. Unverified footage on Palestinian social media showed a local market with bread scattered on a blood-stained floor.

On Monday, the Israeli army ordered residents of several towns and villages in eastern Khan Younis to evacuate before tanks re-entered the area. Thousands who ignored the call were forced to flee overnight as Israeli tanks and planes bombed Karara, Abassan, and other areas named in the evacuation orders.

“Where will we go?” asked Tamer, a 55-year-old businessman displaced six times since October 7. “Every time people go back to their homes and begin to rebuild, the occupation sends the tanks back to destroy what is left,” he told Reuters.

The Israeli military stated that its forces had targeted areas in Khan Younis from where about 20 rockets were fired on Monday, hitting weapon storage facilities and operational centers. Measures were taken to ensure civilian safety, including evacuation orders, but the military accused Hamas of using civilian infrastructure as human shields. Hamas denies this.

Islamic Jihad, an allied group of Hamas, claimed responsibility for firing the rockets.

The conflict began on October 7 when Hamas launched an attack into southern Israel, killing 1,200 people and taking around 250 hostages back into Gaza. Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed nearly 38,000 people, according to the Gaza health ministry, and devastated the coastal enclave. The ministry reports that most of the dead are civilians, while Israel claims that at least a third are fighters. Israeli forces have lost 320 soldiers in Gaza.

Evacuation orders affected areas including the European Gaza Hospital, necessitating the evacuation of patients and families. Some residents sought refuge in the overcrowded Mawasi area by the beach, with some sleeping in the streets.

Israel’s operation in Rafah, near the Egyptian border, aims to eliminate Hamas in its final stronghold. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated that Israel is nearing its goal of destroying Hamas’s military capabilities, with less intense operations to follow.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad continue to resist Israeli forces and fire rockets into Israel. Efforts to secure a ceasefire and release hostages have stalled, with Hamas demanding an end to the war and a full Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, while Israel insists on temporary pauses until Hamas is eradicated.

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