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Israel says ground forces operating across Gaza Strip as offensive builds

Published Dec 03, 2023 02:54AM ET Updated Dec 03, 2023 07:47PM ET
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8/8 © Reuters. A mobile artillery unit fires in direction of Gaza Strip, during an ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, at the border with Gaza, in Israel, December 2, 2023. REUTERS/Amir Cohen 2/8

By Arafat Barbakh and Nidal al-Mughrabi

GAZA/CAIRO (Reuters) -The Israeli military said its ground forces were operating against Hamas across the Gaza Strip on Sunday, its clearest indication yet that a planned ground offensive in the enclave's heavily crowded south had begun as Israeli bombing killed and wounded dozens of Palestinians.

The Hamas Palestinian militant group said its fighters clashed with Israeli troops about 2 km (1 mile) from the southern city of Khan Younis. Residents, many of whom had moved there to flee earlier attacks in the Israel-Palestinian conflict, said they could hear tank fire and feared a new Israeli ground offensive was building.

The Israeli military earlier ordered people to evacuate some areas in and near the city, but made no announcement of any new southern ground assault.

"The IDF (Israel Defence Forces) continues to extend its ground operation against Hamas centres in all of the Gaza Strip," spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari told reporters in Tel Aviv. "The forces are coming face-to-face with terrorists and killing them."

SHIPPING ATTACKS

Attacks on shipping in the southern Red Sea on Sunday fueled fears of the conflict spreading.

The U.S. Defense Department said three commercial ships were attacked by Yemen's Iran-allied Houthi movement in international Red Sea waters, and a U.S. destroyer operating in the area shot down three drones as it responded to distress calls.

A Houthi spokesperson said its navy had attacked two Israeli ships in the Red Sea with an armed drone and a missile on Sunday, though an Israeli military spokesman said the two ships had no connection to Israel.

Separately, the U.S. carried out a self-defense strike in Iraq against an "imminent threat" at a drone staging strike. It was not immediately clear if the incidents were linked.

REFUGEE CAMP STRIKE

The Jabalia refugee camp in the north of Hamas-ruled Gaza was among the sites reported hit from the air. A Gazan health ministry spokesperson said several people were killed by an Israeli air strike.

Footage obtained by Reuters showed a boy covered in grey dust, sitting weeping amid crumbled cement and rubble from collapsed buildings.

"My father was martyred," he cried in a hoarse voice. A girl in a pink sweatshirt, also coated with dust, stood between piles of rubble.

Bombardments from war planes and artillery were also concentrated on Khan Younis and Rafah, another city in Gaza's south, residents said, and hospitals were struggling to cope with the flow of wounded.

Israel's government spokesperson, Eylon Levy, said the military had struck more than 400 targets over the weekend "including extensive aerial attacks in the Khan Younis area" and had also killed Hamas militants and destroyed their infrastructure in Beit Lahiya in the north.

There was no immediate comment on the reports of specific attacks.

The renewed warfare followed the end on Friday of a seven-day pause in the fighting between Israeli forces and Hamas militants which had allowed an exchange of 105 hostages held by Hamas, most of them Israelis, for 240 Palestinian prisoners.

The latest violence took place despite calls from the United States — Israel's closest ally — for Israel to limit harm to Palestinian civilians in the new phase of its offensive, focused on the south.

More than 15,523 people have been killed, according to Gaza's health ministry, in nearly two months of warfare that broke out after a Hamas cross-border raid on southern Israel on Oct. 7 in which 1,200 Israelis were killed and around 240 taken hostage. Israel says Hamas continues to hold 136 hostages.

Israel has vowed to annihilate Hamas. The Iranian-backed group is sworn to Israel's destruction. The initial Hamas attack and the ensuing war amount to the bloodiest episode in the decades-old wider Israel-Palestinian conflict.

Osama Hamdan, a Lebanon-based Hamas official, accused Israel of pursuing a deliberate strategy of urging Gazan civilians south in order to trap and kill them there.

"It has become clear that the occupation's claim ... of the existence of safe areas in the south of the Gaza Strip, and its constant call for citizens to go there, was a premeditated plan and trap to commit more massacres against unarmed civilians and displaced people in the south," he told reporters without citing evidence. "There are no safe areas."

Israeli military spokesperson Jonathan Conricus told CNN that Israeli forces were targeting Hamas command and control centers, weapons storage and logistics facilities, and was asking Palestinians to evacuate to a special humanitarian zone in southern Gaza near Khan Younis.

"It isn't perfect but it is the best, currently available solution that we have," Conricus said.

GROUND OFFENSIVE FEARED

Gaza residents said earlier on Sunday they feared an Israeli ground offensive on the southern areas was imminent. Tanks had cut off the road between Khan Younis and Deir Al-Balah in central Gaza, effectively dividing the Gaza Strip into three.

The Israeli military ordered Palestinians to evacuate several areas in and around Khan Younis. It posted a map highlighting shelters they should go to west of Khan Younis and south toward Rafah, on the border with Egypt.

Many residents started packing but said that areas they had been told to go to were themselves coming under attack.

Nabil Al-Ghandour told Reuters he and his family would leave Khan Younis for Rafah later on Sunday, their fifth move in search of safety since the conflict started.

"We can't see any safe areas," he said. "But we move because what can we do? We have children and all night there's shelling."

Later on Sunday, a Gazan health ministry official said seven people were killed in an air strike on a house in Rafah. The Israeli military did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

TUNNELS HIT

The Israeli military said on Sunday its war planes and helicopters had struck Hamas targets including tunnel shafts, command centres and weapons storage facilities. Naval forces had hit Hamas vessels on the coast, it said.

The military declined to give figures on the number of air strikes carried out.

On another front, Israeli forces and Hezbollah militants traded fire across the Israel-Lebanon border and Israel said several of its soldiers were wounded when an anti-tank missile fired from Lebanon hit a vehicle in the Beit Hillel area of northern Israel. Reuters could not independently verify the accounts.

Israel says ground forces operating across Gaza Strip as offensive builds
 

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Comments (7)
Bett Albern
Bett Albern Dec 03, 2023 7:50PM ET
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What this Progressive Liberal Article does not point out is that Hamas was voted into power by the people of Gaza in 2006 and Hamas is the Party of the Gaza residents.  Hamas is just a little more than a terrorist group.  Just like our regime in the US that has done a wonderful job with inflation and Southern Border Security, you get what you vote for.
Grant Edwards
Grant Edwards Dec 03, 2023 7:50PM ET
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Hamas has been propped up by Israel for many years, fyi. And that election was 17 years ago, before most of the 2.3 mil inhabitants of Gaza were able to vote. And that’s because you can’t vote if you haven’t yet been born.Investors cheer the most naive comments imaginable. 🤡
Ken Roth
Ken Roth Dec 03, 2023 3:20PM ET
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Well according to Hamas 85% of the palestinians living in Gaza supports Hamas and their mission to wipe out Isreal, maybe the palestinians should reconsider their mission
Tyrone Jackson
Tyrone Jackson Dec 03, 2023 1:16PM ET
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Maybe the hamas did not think things through- what did they think the reaction would be for slaughtering innocent women and children in their raid?? Not a very smart move- Now reap your seeds you sow.
Andy Cunningham
Andy Cunningham Dec 03, 2023 10:28AM ET
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who cares? wipe out gaza forever.
Trubid Lin
Trubid Lin Dec 03, 2023 10:28AM ET
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This is a trading platform no reason for hateful messages
Randy Randy
randy00 Dec 03, 2023 9:59AM ET
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The UN should bomb Israel until they stop slaughtering civilians.
Dec 03, 2023 9:59AM ET
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Israel is responsible for the safety of their own people and that means eliminating Hamas. If Hamas hides among civilians then civilians are going to die. Hamas created the circumstances, Isreal is only doing what they have to to eliminate a threat.
Randy Randy
randy00 Dec 03, 2023 9:59AM ET
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 That's perverted thinking.
Randy Randy
randy00 Dec 03, 2023 9:59AM ET
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 Israel should go after Hamas the hard way, With boots on the ground and in the tunnels. Not dropping 2000 lb bombs on whomever. Bastards.
chess reed
chess reed Dec 03, 2023 9:59AM ET
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Randy Randy  And hamas rats should also go the hard way and come out there rat tunnels
Randy Randy
randy00 Dec 03, 2023 9:59AM ET
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Ge K
Ge K Dec 03, 2023 8:30AM ET
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Bring all the People of Gaza to the US and lets see what will happen. Why do you think other countries will not take them. Why is nobody asking that?
Bolivar Altamirano
Bolivar Altamirano Dec 03, 2023 8:30AM ET
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are you Muslim?
Brad Albright
Brad Albright Dec 03, 2023 8:30AM ET
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No, he's MAGA.
Tyrone Jackson
Tyrone Jackson Dec 03, 2023 8:30AM ET
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He asked a very real question- And the Bawl lickers can only come up with childish answers. Why is it that the nearby muslin counties are keeping them out?? Why? Why?
Brad Albright
Brad Albright Dec 03, 2023 8:30AM ET
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Am I wrong?
Bill Small
Bill Small Dec 03, 2023 3:23AM ET
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So Arab countries killed 900,000 Jewish settlers in the 20th century who had settled in their counties and now even though Hamas is killing their own people Israel gets the blame? Keep up the pounding Israel. A few more to go.
 
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