09 July 2024

Israeli forces push deeper into Gaza City as thousands of Palestinians flee

09 July 2024

Israeli forces have advanced deeper into the Gaza Strip’s largest city in pursuit of militants, sending thousands of Palestinians fleeing on Monday from an area ravaged in the early weeks of the nine-month-long war.

Hamas warned the latest raids and displacement in Gaza City could lead to the collapse of long-running negotiations over a ceasefire and hostage release after the two sides had appeared to have narrowed the gaps in recent days.

Israeli troops were again battling militants in areas that the army said had been largely cleared months ago in northern Gaza.

The military ordered evacuations ahead of the raids, but Palestinians said nowhere feels safe.

Most of the population of 2.3 million has been displaced, often multiple times. Hundreds of thousands are packed into sweltering tent camps.

Israel ordered the evacuation of northern Gaza in the first weeks of the war and has prevented most people from returning. But hundreds of thousands of Palestinians remain, living in shelters or the shells of homes.

“We fled in the darkness amid heavy strikes,” said Sayeda Abdel-Baki, a mother of three who had sheltered with relatives in the Daraj neighbourhood. “This is my fifth displacement.”

Residents reported artillery and tank fire, as well as airstrikes.

Gaza’s Health Ministry, with limited access to the north, did not immediately report casualties.

Israel issued additional evacuation orders for areas in other neighbourhoods of central Gaza City.

The military said it had intelligence showing that militants from Hamas and the smaller Islamic Jihad group were in the area and called on residents to head south to the city of Deir al-Balah.

Israel accuses Hamas and other militants of hiding among civilians. In Shijaiyah, a Gaza City neighbourhood that has seen weeks of fighting, the military said troops raided and destroyed schools and a clinic that had been converted into militant compounds.

The war has decimated large portions of the urban landscape and sparked a humanitarian catastrophe.

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