Israel presses on with Gaza offensive approaching 100 days of war By Reuters

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© Reuters. An Israeli military vehicle operates at a location given as the Gaza Strip amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in this screen grab obtained from a video released on January 8, 2024. Israel Defense Forces/Hand

By Nidal al-Mughrabi and Bassam Masoud

DOHA/GAZA (Reuters) – Israel kept up bombardments in the Gaza Strip on Saturday as its deadly war on the enclave’s Hamas rulers approached 100 days with no end in sight.

In the southern city of Rafah, an Israeli airstrike on a house sheltering two displaced families killed 10 people, the Gaza health ministry said.

Holding up a photo of a dead girl with a piece of bread in her hand, Bassem Arafeh, a relative, said the families in Rafah had been eating dinner when the house was struck on Friday night.

“This child died while she was hungry, while she was eating a piece of bread with nothing on it, where is the International Criminal Court to see how the children die?” Arafeh said. “Where are the Muslims … and the world leaders?”

Israel says it targets militants and does all it can to minimize harm to non-combatants as it wages urban warfare against Hamas in the densely populated Palestinian enclave.

But the scale of the killing in Gaza and the dire humanitarian situation has shocked world opinion and fuelled growing calls for a ceasefire.

The Israeli military on Saturday said its forces had killed numerous militants in the southern area of Khan Younis and in the central Gaza Strip. It said it was looking into the reported strike in Rafah.

Hamas said its fighters fired at an Israeli helicopter in southern Gaza’s Khan Younis.

In the central Gaza Strip, residents reported intense gunbattles and tank shelling and Israeli air strikes in Al-Bureij, Al-Nusseirat and Al-Maghazi, areas housing refugees and descendants of the 1948 war.

The Israeli military said it targeted militants and a Hamas command center in those areas. Israeli forces were also seen on the edge of Deir Al-Balah, a town to the West, to which Israel had been urging residents to shelter.

Witnesses said a bus hit nearby by an Israeli missile. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

More than 20 fatalities were reported in northern Gaza, Beit Lahiya and in the Daraj neighborhood in Gaza City.

Israel has announced a new phase in the war, saying it will begin withdrawing its forces from northern Gaza Strip where they deployed three weeks after the militants rampaged through southern Israel on Oct. 7.

The Gaza health ministry spokesman Ashraf Al-Qidra said Israeli strikes killed 135 Palestinians and wounded 312 in the past 24 hours. In total, he said 23,843 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have been killed since Oct. 7.

Israel says it has killed at least 8,000 fighters so far and that it has no choice but to end Hamas rule in Gaza after the militants, who are sworn to Israel’s destruction, killed 1,200 people, mainly civilians, and took 240 hostages.

Most of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million has since been displaced with much of the territory laid to waste.

“Sheikh Zayed City was one of the beautiful cities of Gaza before the war, it used to house thousands of people, but it is now destroyed,” said Mahmoud Salama, a freelance Palestinian journalist touring the northern town after Israeli tanks had retreated. “The reality is more difficult than the footage.”

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