Connect with us

Israeli troops reach heart of Khan Younis as Hamas threatens lives of hostages in Gaza | Israel-Gaza war

3532

Internashonal

Israeli troops reach heart of Khan Younis as Hamas threatens lives of hostages in Gaza | Israel-Gaza war


Israeli tanks have reached the heart of Gaza’s southern city of Khan Younis, as Hamas issued fresh demands for Palestinian prisoners to be released while at the same time threatening the lives of the hostages they continue to hold.

Residents of Khan Younis said tanks had reached the main north-south road through the city on Sunday after intense combat through the night that had slowed the Israeli advance from the east. Warplanes were reported to be pounding the area west of the assault.

Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said dozens of Hamas fighters had surrendered, calling it the beginning of the end for the organisation. The Palestinian militant group denied this, calling the claim “false and baseless”.

In a statement on Sunday, Hamas said that none of the hostages that were still being held would leave Gaza alive unless its demands for prisoner releases by Israel were met. In a televised statement, a Hamas spokesperson said the movement was “ready to release all soldiers in exchange for all our prisoners”.

The most recent conflict began after Hamas carried out the most deadly attack ever on Israel on 7 October, killing 1,200 people and taking about 240 hostages back to Gaza.

Israel responded with a relentless military offensive that has reduced much of Gaza to rubble and killed almost 18,000 people, mostly women and children, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry. About 49,500 people have been injured.

An Israeli analysis suggested civilians constituted 61% of the dead from airstrikes earlier in the campaign.

After weeks of fighting that was concentrated in the north, Israel launched its ground offensive in the south last week, storming Khan Younis. According to a report on Israel’s Channel 13, Netanyahu told US president Joe Biden in a phone call over the weekend that the operation in Khan Younis would take between three and four weeks to complete.

Smoke rises after Israeli strikes in Khan Younis.
Smoke rises after Israeli strikes in Khan Younis. Photograph: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters

Israel’s national security adviser, Tzachi Hanegbi, told Israel’s Channel 12 TV that the US has set no deadline for Israel to achieve its goals. “The evaluation that this can’t be measured in weeks is correct, and I’m not sure it can be measured in months,” he said.

With combat now under way along nearly the entire length of the Gaza Strip, and little aid trickling in, international aid organisations say Palestinians in the territory face severe shortages of food, water and other basic goods.

On Sunday, the UN secretary-general, António Guterres also said the UN security council’s “authority and credibility were severely undermined”, after the US blocked a ceasefire resolution on Friday.

“I can promise, I will not give up,” Guterres said at Qatar’s Doha Forum.

The 193-member UN general assembly was likely to vote on Tuesday on a draft resolution demanding a ceasefire, diplomats said on Sunday. Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian ambassador to the UN, told the AP it was similar to the resolution the US vetoed on Friday.

There are no vetoes in the general assembly but unlike the security council its resolutions are not legally binding.

On Sunday, the World Health Organization also warned that the territory’s aid system was collapsing as the 34 countries on its executive board adopted by consensus a resolution calling for immediate, unimpeded aid deliveries to Gaza.

“Gaza’s health system is on its knees and collapsing,” said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The emergency resolution seeks passage into Gaza for medical personnel and supplies, while requiring the WHO to document violence against healthcare workers and patients and to secure funding to rebuild hospitals.

Tedros told the board in Geneva that medical needs in Gaza had surged and the risk of disease had grown, yet the health system had been reduced to a third of its pre-conflict capacity.

Qatar, where Hamas’s top leadership is based, said it was still working on a new truce like the week-long ceasefire it helped mediate last month that saw 80 Israeli hostages exchanged for 240 Palestinian prisoners and humanitarian aid.

But Israel’s relentless bombardment was “narrowing the window” for success, Qatari prime minister sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said.

The prime minister said that mediation efforts to stop the war and have all hostages released will continue, but “unfortunately, we are not seeing the same willingness that we had seen in the weeks before.”

UN Secretary-General António Guterres speaks in Qatar.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres speaks in Qatar. Photograph: REUTERS

On Sunday, US secretary of state Antony Blinken again rejected a ceasefire.

“With Hamas still alive, still intact and … with the stated intent of repeating October 7 again and again and again, that would simply perpetuate the problem,” he told ABC News.

But Blinken also said that Israeli forces should ensure “military operations are designed around civilian protection”.

“I think the intent is there. But the results are not always manifesting themselves,” he said.

The Biden administration has faced intensified scrutiny after it revealed it had bypassed Congress to supply tank shells, and was reported not to be carrying out continual assessments of whether Israel was committing possible war crimes.

On Saturday, the US Defense Security cooperation Agency published a declaration saying that Blinken, had invoked emergency powers to supply nearly 14,000 tank rounds to Israel, waiving the requirement to consult Congress under the Arms Export Control Act.

The Washington Post cited unnamed officials as admitting that in Israel’s case, the US was not following guidelines that Biden himself had established in February requiring all arms transfers to foreign governments be subjected to rigorous and continual examination of the recipient’s record on the Geneva conventions and other global norms for conducting warfare.

In Israel’s north, violence escalated at the border with Lebanon on Sunday, as Hezbollah launched explosive drones and powerful missiles at Israeli positions and Israeli airstrikes rocked several towns and villages in south Lebanon.

Israel and the Iran-backed Hezbollah have been trading fire since the war in Gaza erupted two months ago.

A senior Hezbollah leader told Reuters that Israeli airstrikes were a “new escalation” to which the group was responding with new types of attacks, be it “in the nature of the weapons [used] or the targeted sites”.

The Israeli army said earlier in the day that “suspicious aerial targets” had crossed from Lebanon and two were intercepted. Two Israeli soldiers were moderately wounded and a number of others lightly injured from shrapnel and smoke inhalation, it said.

Reuters, Agence France-Presse and the Associated Press contributed to this report



Source link

More in Internashonal

To Top