Israeli forces encircle main southern Gaza city

AFP , Wednesday 6 Dec 2023

Israeli forces were encircling southern Gaza's main city on Wednesday, battling Hamas fighters through streets and buildings in some of the most intense combat of the two-month war.

An Israeli Apache helicopter fires a missile in direction of the Gaza Strip, as seen from southern Israel, Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023 AP


The focus of the conflict has shifted into the besieged territory's south following fierce fighting and bombardment that reduced much of the north to rubble and forced nearly two million people to flee their homes.

Israeli tanks, armoured personnel carriers and bulldozers were seen on Tuesday near southern Gaza's city of Khan Yunis, forcing already displaced civilians to pack up and flee again, witnesses told AFP.

"Our forces are now encircling the Khan Yunis area in the southern Gaza Strip," Israel's army chief Herzi Halevi said late Tuesday.

"We have secured many Hamas strongholds in the northern Gaza Strip, and now we are operating against its strongholds in the south."

The fighting on Tuesday was "the most intense day since the beginning of the ground operation" in late October, the army's Southern Command chief Major General Yaron Finkelman said.

The latest toll from the Palestinian media office said 16,248 people in Gaza, most of them women and children, had been killed.

Several Hamas commanders were killed in an air strike near the Indonesia Hospital, the Israeli military said early Wednesday on X.

Sources in Hamas and Islamic Jihad, another Palestinian militant group, told AFP their fighters were battling Israeli troops early Wednesday in a bid to prevent them from breaking into Khan Yunis and surrounding areas.

According to the Hamas-run government media office, dozens of people were killed and injured in heavy strikes on areas east of Khan Yunis.

Meanwhile, areas in the central and northern Gaza Strip were still coming under bombardment, according to Hamas. 

The Palestinian health ministry said air strikes on the Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza killed six people and injured 14 others.

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