Attack kills 12 people, mostly children, in Gaza area declared safe zone by Israel

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RAFAH, Gaza Strip (AP) — An Israeli strike on Thursday leveled a house in an area of ​​southern Gaza that the military had declared a safe zone, killing at least 12 people, almost all of them children, Palestinian hospital officials said. while Israeli troops they pressed their assault in the nearby town of Khan Younis.

Israel’s offensive has focused on Khan Younis, where the army said it discovered tunnels used by Hamas and fought fighters from the militant group that attacked southern Israel on October 7.

Israel has vowed to continue its campaign in Gaza until Hamas is destroyed. Now an apparent Israeli attack that killed a senior Hamas leader in Beirut has raised new fears that the conflict could spread to other parts of the Middle East. Concerns of a broader war are likely to be high on the agenda when US Secretary of State Antony Blinken departs on Thursday night. visit Israel and other countries around the region.

The murder of Saleh Arouri sparked warnings of retaliation from Hamas ally the Lebanese Hezbollah militia. But there was no immediate escalation in the daily exchanges of rockets and projectiles between Hezbollah and the Israeli army over the two countries’ border. Regional tensions increased as US airstrike killed leader of Iranian-backed militia in Iraq and how Yemen’s Houthi rebels continued attacks on ships in key Red Sea shipping routes.

At the same time, Israel has stepped up its warnings of tougher military action against Hezbollah unless it withdraws its fighters from the border region, as called for in a 2006 U.N.-brokered ceasefire. Israel says that is the only how tens of thousands of Israelis who were evacuated from northern communities can return.

Meeting with Amos Hochstein, a senior adviser to US President Joe Biden, on Thursday, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said there was a “brief time” for diplomacy with Hezbollah. But he said Israel was determined to achieve “a new reality in the north, which will allow the safe return of our citizens.”

In Gaza, nearly three months of Israeli shelling and ground attacks have killed more than 22,400 people, more than two-thirds of them women and children. according to the Ministry of Health in territory controlled by Hamas. The ministry’s count does not differentiate between civilians and combatants.

The campaign has driven more than 85% of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents from their homes. Israel’s attack devastated much of northern Gaza, and ground attacks in the south have driven most of the population to smaller portions of the territory. As attacks continue across Gaza, Palestinians say no place is safe.

On Thursday, a strike hit a house in Mawasi, a small rural strip on Gaza’s southern coast. where the Israeli army has said Palestinians should flee to escape from the combat zone. The explosion killed a man and his wife, seven of his children and three other children ranging in age from 5 to 14, according to a list of the dead that arrived at Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis.

There was no immediate response from the Israeli army.

Israeli troops advanced toward Khan Younis in early December and have been fighting Hamas militants there for weeks. The military said Thursday that its troops discovered a large tunnel hundreds of meters long with an entrance in a field next to a mosque.

Footage released by the military showed him attacking ruined buildings where fighters who allegedly fired on troops had hidden or that contained Hamas infrastructure. Military officials did not provide further details.

Israel blames Hamas for the high number of civilian deaths, saying it operates within residential areas and has an extensive network of tunnels beneath civilian sites.

Gallant said Israel is seeking a “clear victory” over Hamas, which has ruled the territory since 2007. The Oct. 7 attack from Gaza into southern Israel killed about 1,200 people and about 240 more were taken hostage.

Israel appears far from achieving its goals of crushing Hamas and returning the estimated 129 hostages still held by the group. Gallant said several thousand Hamas fighters remain in northern Gaza, where Israeli troops have been fighting militants for more than two months and where entire neighborhoods have been razed.

U.N. associate spokesperson Florencia Soto Niño said officials from the U.N. humanitarian office and the World Health Organization on Thursday visited the Al Amal hospital in Khan Younis, which was reportedly hit by a deadly attack, and They witnessed extensive damage.

The UN and its humanitarian partners have not been able to deliver aid to northern Gaza for three days, Soto Niño said.

The humanitarian office has warned that Gaza “is a public health disaster in the making,” it said.

More than 400,000 cases of infectious diseases have been reported since Oct. 7, Soto Niño said, including about 180,000 people with upper respiratory infections and more than 136,000 cases of diarrhea, half of them in children under five years old.


Jeffery reported from Cairo.


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