Israel presses attack in southern Gaza as deadly war enters fourth month- as it happened

Ahram Online , Sunday 7 Jan 2024

The Israeli occupation army signaled that it has wrapped up major combat in northern Gaza, saying it has completed dismantling Hamas’ military infrastructure there, as the war against the militant group entered its fourth month Sunday. Gaza's southern city of Khan Younis was hit by fresh Israeli air strikes, killing and wounding several people.

Khan Yunis
A picture taken from Rafah on January 7, 2024, shows smoke billowing over Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip during Israeli bombardment. AFP
 
 
17:00 The Washington Post reported, citing an American intelligence assessment, that it would be difficult for Israel to succeed in a war against Hezbollah despite Tel Aviv making it clear to US officials that it may soon launch a major military operation into Lebanon.
 
Accordingly, US President Biden has rushed his top aides to the Middle East to prevent a full-out war from erupting between Israel and Hezbollah, and an expansion of Israel’s war beyond Gaza.
 
“We prefer the path of an agreed-upon diplomatic settlement,” Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said Friday, “but we are getting close to the point where the hourglass will turn over.”
 
According to the newspaper, US officials have voiced concern that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may opt to expand the fighting on the northern front to help ensure his political survival amid mounting domestic pressures over his government’s failure to prevent the 7 October Hamas offensive.
 
“In private conversations, the administration has warned Israel against a significant escalation in Lebanon," the paper said citing US officials.
 
“If it [Israel] were to do so… it would be difficult for Israel's army to succeed because its military assets and resources would be spread too thin given the conflict in Gaza,” the Post added citing two people familiar with a new secret assessment from the US Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA).
 
In a speech on Friday, Hezbollah Leader Hassan Nasrallah warned Israel that the group would respond swiftly "on the battlefield" as Hezbollah fighters and Israeli forces continued to exchange rocket fire on the Israel-Lebanon border.
 
US officials, however, say Hezbollah wants to avoid a major escalation and that the group’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, is seeking to steer clear of a wider war, the Post reported.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to arrive in Israel on Monday where he will "discuss specific steps to avoid escalation," the paper said citing Blinken's spokesman, Matt Miller said

 This marks Blinken's fourth visit to the Middle East since the start of the Israeli war on Gaza on 7 October.

 “It is in no one’s interest – not Israel’s, not the region’s, not the world’s – for this conflict to spread beyond Gaza,” Miller said. 

 Blinken's visit comes amid the United States' refusal to support a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire in the Israeli war on Gaza.

 The decision has sparked outcry, both regionally and internationally, prompting concerns about the escalation of violence and the humanitarian crisis in the region.

16:00 Hezbollah fighters and Israeli forces continued to exchange rocket fire on the Israel-Lebanon border amid fears of a wider regional conflict.

Israeli Channel 12 said the Israeli army hit a home in the town of Metulla in southern Lebanon using anti-tank missiles.

Nearby, an Al-Jazeera correspondent reported Israeli shelling in the vicinity of the towns of Khiam, Markaba, and Haula.

The correspondent added that sirens were sounded in Kiryat Shmona and several areas in the Upper Galilee in northern Israel after six rockets were launched from southern Lebanon.

Earlier Lebanon’s Hezbollah said they scored a direct hit on an Israeli radar site in the occupied Lebanese Shebaa Farms.

Head of Hezbollah's Executive Council Hashem Safi Al-Din and number two in the group, said today that Saturday’s rocket attack on the Meron Israeli military base is not the "entire response" to the assassination of Hamas's Deputy Leader Saleh Al-Aruri, and there will be "additional responses."

Al-Aruri's killing on Tuesday, in an Israeli strike on south Beirut, has raised fears of a full-out war between Israel and Hezbollah and a wider regional conflict.

In a speech on Friday, Hezbollah Leader Hassan Nasrallah warned Israel that the group would respond swiftly "on the battlefield" to Al-Aruri's assassination.

15:16  Nine people were killed in the occupied West Bank, including seven Palestinians who were targeted in an air strike by the Israeli army, sources on both sides said.

Since the start of Israel's war on Gaza, Israeli military violence has surged in the West Bank to levels unseen in nearly two decades. Israeli forces carry out near-daily raids in the occupied territory, especially in the West Bank city of Jenin and its adjacent refugee camp.

"An Israeli occupation bombardment on a group of citizens killed seven people in Jenin," said the Ramallah-based Palestinian health ministry.

Israeli police said a police officer was killed and three other officers wounded during an operation at the refugee camp.

In another incident north of Ramallah, an Israeli civilian was shot dead, the army said.

The official Palestinian news agency WAFA reported early Sunday that a major deployment of Israeli forces was underway in Jenin.

It said the six Palestinians, including four brothers, were killed in an "Israeli drone strike" in Jenin, and a seventh died later from wounds.

Suleiman Moussa, a resident of Jenin, said the "air strike" followed sounds of gunfire.

"We came here and saw people thrown to the ground, some with heads cut off, some body parts. It was an unbelievable scene and we didn't know what to do," Moussa told AFP.

"Later people called the ambulance which came and took six martyrs and another person in a critical situation."

Since 7 October, at least 328 people in the West Bank have been killed by either soldiers or Israeli settlers, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

More than 520 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank in 2023, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

14:00 The health ministry in Gaza says at least 22,835 people have been killed in the besieged Palestinian territory since Israel's war on the strip began on 7 October.

The ministry added in a statement that it had recorded 113 deaths in the past 24 hours, while a total of 58,416 people had been wounded under Israel's relentless bombardment and ground invasion of Gaza.

13:30 Israeli forces are pushing deeper into the central city of Deir al-Balah, where on Saturday residents in several neighborhoods were warned in flyers dropped over the city that they must evacuate their homes.

The international medical charity Doctors Without Borders, known by the acronym MSF, said it was evacuating its medical staff and their families from Deir al-Balah’s Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Hospital because of the growing danger.

“The situation became so dangerous that some staff living in the neighboring areas were not able to leave their houses because of the constant threats of drones and snipers,” said Carolina Lopez, the group’s emergency coordinator at the hospital.

She said a bullet penetrated a wall of the hospital’s intensive care unit on Friday, and that “drone attacks and sniper fire were just a few hundred meters from the hospital” over the past couple of days.

The group had about 50 Palestinian and international medical staff in the hospital. Lopez said the hospital has received between 150 and 200 injured people daily in recent weeks. “On some days, we have received more dead than injured,” she said. “No one and nowhere is safe in Gaza.”

13:00 Officials at Nasser Hospital in the southern city of Khan Younis received the bodies of 18 people, including 12 children, who were killed in an Israeli strike late Saturday. More than 50 people were injured in the strike on a home in the Khan Younis refugee camp, which was set up decades ago to house refugees from the 1948 war and morphed into a neighborhood of the city.

Another airstrike hit a house between Khan Younis and the southern city of Rafah, killing at least seven people whose bodies were taken to the nearby European Hospital, according to an Associated Press journalist at the facility.

12:30 The health ministry in Gaza said that an Israeli air strike killed two journalists in the Palestinian territory.

Mustafa Al-Thuria, a video stringer for AFP news agency, and Hamza Wael Al-Dahdouh, a journalist with Al Jazeera television network, were killed while they were travelling in a car, the ministry and medics said.

Hamza's father Wael Al-Dahdouh is Al Jazeera's bureau chief in the Gaza Strip, and was also recently wounded in a strike. In late October, Wael’s wife and two of his children were killed in an Israeli strike in central Gaza which targeted the home they were sheltering at in the Nusseirat refugee camp.

According to local media, the deceased Hamza was Wael's oldest son.

Al-Thuria had worked with AFP since 2019.

A third journalist was also injured in the Israeli airstrike, Palestinian news agency Wafa reported.

By December 31, at least 77 journalists and media workers had been killed since 7 October, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists.

Of this number, 70 were Palestinian, four Israeli, and three Lebanese.

The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate has documented the killing of 102 journalists and the injury of 71 others by the Israeli occupation forces in the year 2023 alone.

 

12:00 Israeli Military Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said late Saturday that forces would “continue to deepen the achievement” in northern Gaza, strengthen defences along the Israel-Gaza border fence, and focus on the central and southern parts of the territory.

The announcement came ahead of a visit to Israel by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Biden administration officials, including Blinken, have repeatedly urged Israel to wind down its blistering air and ground offensive in Gaza and shift to more targeted attacks against Hamas leaders to prevent harm to Palestinian civilians.

In recent weeks, Israel had already been scaling back its military assault in northern Gaza and pressing its offensive in the territory’s south, where most of Gaza’s 2.3 million Palestinians are being squeezed into smaller areas in a humanitarian disaster while being pounded by Israeli airstrikes.

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