Israel drops leaflets telling Palestinians to leave southern Gaza, signaling a widening offensive

AP , Friday 1 Dec 2023

Israel drops leaflets telling Gaza residents to leave parts of southern Gaza, signaling a widening offensive as it's fighter jets resumed striking the Strip minutes after a week long truce expired on Friday.

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A Palestinian woman reacts as people check the rubble of a building destroyed in an Israeli air strikes on the Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip on December 1, 2023.AFP

 

In the leaflets it dropped in southern Gaza, Israel urged people to leave homes east of the city of Khan Younis. The leaflets also warned that Khan Younis was now a “dangerous battle zone.”

Hundreds of thousands of people fled northern Gaza earlier in the war, with many taking shelter in Khan Younis and other places in the south.

Only hours into the renewed offensive, the Palestinian Health Ministry said 32 people had been killed and dozens wounded.

One of the first airstrikes Friday destroyed a large building in Khan Younis. Moments later, residents were seen frantically searching the rubble for survivors as medics approached. One wounded person was carried away on a stretcher.

In Hamad City, a Qatari-funded housing development near the city, a strike hit an apartment in a multi-story residential building, while other parts of the building appeared largely intact.

Elsewhere, a strike hit a home near Gaza City in the north, and in the refugee camp of Maghazi, near the Gaza's center, rescuers clawed through the rubble of a large building hit by warplanes. A foot stuck out of the tangle of concrete and wiring.

In Israel, sirens warning of incoming rockets blared at several settlements near Gaza, a sign that Hamas also resumed attacks, but there were no reports of hits or damage.

White smoke trails could be seen in the skies over Sderot on the border with northern Gaza after Israel's missile protection systems were activated.

The collapse of the cease-fire came a day after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Israeli officials and urged them to do more to protect Palestinian civilians.

While expressing hope at the time that the cease-fire could be extended, Blinken said that if Israel resumed the war and moved against southern Gaza to pursue Hamas, it must do so in “compliance with international humanitarian law” and must have “a clear plan in place” to protect civilians.

He said Israeli leaders understood that ”the massive levels of civilian life and displacement scale we saw in the north must not be repeated in the south.”

It was not clear to what extent Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will heed the appeals of the United States, Israel’s most important ally.

Netanyahu’s office said Friday that Israel “is committed to achieving the goals of the war: Releasing the captives, eliminating Hamas and ensuring that Gaza never again constitutes a threat to the residents of Israel.”

The Israeli military’s announcement of the resumption of strikes came only 30 minutes after the cease-fire expired at 7 a.m. (0500 GMT) Friday. Earlier Friday, Israel accused Hamas of having violated the terms of the cease-fire, including by firing rockets toward Israel from Gaza.

The halt in fighting began Nov. 24. It initially lasted for four days, and then was extended for several days with the help of mediators Egypt and Qatar.

During the week-long truce, Hamas and other groups in Gaza released more than 100 captives, most of them Israelis, in return for 240 Palestinians freed from prisons in Israel.

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