More Palestinians displaced as Israel battles Hamas in southern Gaza By Reuters

©Reuters. Israeli soldiers operate in the Gaza Strip amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in this photo published January 28, 2024. Israel Defense Forces/Handout via REUTERS

By Nidal al-Mughrabi and Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

DOHA/GAZA (Reuters) – Medical facilities risk collapse in Khan Younis, the southern Gaza city now at the center of Israel’s offensive, Gaza’s health ministry warned on Sunday, as fighting rages in the Palestinian enclave.

Residents said Israeli planes and tanks also hit areas of Gaza city in the north where Israel has withdrawn troops. Clashes were heard in the nearby towns of Beit Lahiya and Jabalia, near Gaza City.

The Israeli military said it was engaged in “intense battles” in Khan Younis, where it said troops “eliminated terrorists and located large quantities of weapons.”

The armed wing of Hamas and Islamic Jihad said fighters clashed with Israeli troops overnight in several areas of the enclave. Hamas’ armed wing said its fighters destroyed two Israeli tanks in Khan Younis.

The latest clashes came as U.N. officials and aid groups urged countries to reconsider their decision to suspend funding to the U.N. Palestinian Refugee Agency, a vital source of aid in Gaza. At least nine countries have suspended funding following Israel’s allegations that a dozen UNRWA staff members were involved in the October 7 Hamas attacks on Israel.

Gaza Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf Al-Qidra said 165 Palestinians were killed and 290 wounded in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of victims of Israeli attacks since the start of the war to 26,422. In their count, officials in the Hamas-ruled territory make no distinction between militants and civilians.

Israel says it lost 220 soldiers in the ground offensive and killed 9,000 Gaza fighters, a figure Hamas has rejected.

An attack on a house in a Gaza City suburb killed eight people, health officials said.

Israel has launched a war aimed at eliminating Hamas after the militants’ unprecedented cross-border assault, in which 1,200 people were killed and 253 kidnapped, according to Israeli officials.

The Israeli army declared a closed military zone at the Kerem Shalom crossing into Gaza after right-wing protesters and some families of hostages tried to prevent aid from reaching the enclave, claiming they were simply helping Hamas.

Protests in Israel demanding the government do more to secure the release of the hostages have spread, as little progress has been seen in ceasefire talks brokered by Egypt and Qatar since November amid disputes between Israel and Hamas .


Palestinian doctors and residents said Israel continued to shell areas around the two main hospitals in Khan Younis, hampering efforts by rescue teams to respond to desperate calls from those caught up in the Israeli shelling.

“There is a complete failure of the healthcare system in Nasser and Al-Amal hospitals,” Qidra said.

Israel says it is taking measures to keep hospitals running and minimize civilian casualties. It accuses Hamas of operating in densely populated areas, including around hospitals, and using civilians as human shields and has published photos and videos to support this accusation, which the Islamist group denies.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said in a statement that medical teams at Al-Amal hospital in Khan Younis would not be able to perform surgeries because oxygen supplies had run out.

More families were displaced from Khan Younis on Sunday. Some people took dirt roads to get closer to the city of Rafah along the border with Egypt or to Deir Al-Balah in the north. Others headed west to an area called Al-Mawasi where residents described being crammed into a small area.

“It’s as crowded as it gets,” said electrician Abu Raouf, a father of four. “People have lost the ability to think, to feel, they move like robots, it’s only a matter of time before Israel sends tanks here too, there is no safe place.”

Reem Abu Tair left Khan Younis in the cold with three children, one of whom was an infant.

“We managed to save our lives, we escaped the bombing and the destruction around us only to end up in the cold. So if a child doesn’t die from the bombing, he will die of cold,” Abu Tair said.

(Reporting and writing by Nidal al-Mughrabi in DohaAdditional reporting by Ibraheem Abu Mustafa in Gaza and Ari Rabinovitch and Lee Marzel in Jerusalem Editing by Frances Kerry, William Maclean)

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