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The Endgame: Israel’s ‘final push’ forces thousands to flee Southern Gaza Strip

The Endgame: Israel’s ‘final push’ forces thousands to flee Southern Gaza Strip

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Virendra Pandit

New Delhi: The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) bombarded several areas of the southern Gaza Strip on Tuesday, forcing thousands of Palestinians to flee their homes in a ‘final push’ of Israel’s intensive military operations in nine months of the war.

The deadly war started on October 7, 2023, with Hamas terrorists, based in Gaza, invading Israel, killing nearly 1,300 Israelis and taking hostage nearly 250 others. The conflict has claimed nearly 39,000 lives on both sides, wounded many more, and led to the exodus of most of the 2.3 million Palestinians who lived in Gaza until nine months ago.

Israel’s leaders said they were winding down the phase of intense fighting against Hamas, the Islamist group that has governed Gaza since 2007, and would soon shift into more targeted operations, potentially in the north against the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terror group, which could escalate the war beyond Israel and Gaza Strip.

On Tuesday, 17 Palestinians were killed in Israeli tank shelling of a street in the densely populated Zeitoun neighborhood in Gaza City in the north of the Strip, medics said. Footage on some Palestinian social media showed the scene at a local market, with bread scattered on a floor stained with blood, the media reported.

The Israeli army had ordered residents of several towns and villages in eastern Khan Younis to evacuate their homes on Monday before tanks re-entered the area the military had left several weeks ago.

Thousands who had not heeded the call were forced to flee their homes in the dark overnight, as Israeli tanks and planes bombed Karara, Abassan, and other areas that had been named in the evacuation orders, residents and Hamas media said.

The Israeli military said its forces had struck areas in Khan Younis from where around 20 rockets had been fired on Monday. Targets included weapon storage facilities and operational centers, it added.

Islamic Jihad, an allied group of Hamas, took credit for firing the rockets.

The Gaza health ministry does not distinguish between combatants and non-combatants, but officials say most of the dead are civilians. Israel says 320 of its soldiers have been killed in Gaza and that at least a third of the Palestinian dead are fighters.

Israel says that its operation in Rafah, in southern Gaza near the border with Egypt, which was meant to stamp out Hamas in its final redoubt, will soon be concluded.

After the intense phase of the war is over, its forces will focus on smaller-scale operations meant to stop Hamas from regrouping, officials say.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel was nearing its goal of destroying the military capabilities of Hamas. Less intense operations would continue, he said.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad continue to stage attacks against Israeli forces operating inside Gaza and fire rockets into Israel. Hamas says Israel has failed to achieve the goals of the war and the group is ready to fight for years.

Efforts to secure a ceasefire and the release of hostages in Gaza have stalled. Hamas says any deal must end the war and bring a full Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. Israel says it will accept only temporary pauses in the fighting until Hamas is eradicated.


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