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Israel readies for Gaza City push as UN decries month of Middle East 'carnage'

Israel readies for Gaza City push as UN decries month of Middle East 'carnage'


Israel readies for Gaza City push as UN decries month of Middle East 'carnage'

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GAZA/JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel gave civilians still trapped inside freshly encircled Gaza City a four hour window to leave on Tuesday, and residents escaping said they passed tanks in position to possibly begin storming it.

Israel says its forces have surrounded Gaza City, home to a third of the enclave's 2.3 million people, and are poised to storm it soon in their campaign to annihilate the Hamas Islamists who attacked Israeli towns exactly a month ago.

War began on Oct. 7 when the fighters burst across the fence surrounding Gaza and killed 1,400 Israelis, mostly civilians, and abducted more than 200, according to Israeli tallies. Since then, Israel has pounded Hamas-run Gaza with strikes, killing more than 10,000 people, around 40 percent of them children, according to tallies by health officials there.

"It has been one full month of carnage, of incessant suffering, bloodshed, destruction, outrage and despair," U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Volcker Turk said in a statement at the start of a trip to the region, during which he will visit the Rafah crossing from Egypt, the sole route for aid.

"Human rights violations are at the root of this escalation and human rights play a central role in finding a way out of this vortex of pain."

Israel gave residents a window from 10:00 am until 2:00 pm to leave Gaza City on Tuesday. Residents say Israeli tanks have been moving mostly at night, with Israeli forces largely relying on air and artillery strikes to clear a path for their ground advance.

"For your safety, take this next opportunity to move south beyond Wadi Gaza," the military announced, referring to the wetlands that bisect the strip.

"The most dangerous trip in my life. We saw the tanks from point blank. We saw decomposed body parts. We saw death," resident Adam Fayez Zeyara posted with a selfie of himself on the road out of Gaza City.

While Israel's military operation is focused on the northern half of Gaza, the south has also come under attack. Palestinian health officials said at least 23 people were killed in two separate Israeli air strikes early on Tuesday in the southern Gaza cities of Khan Younis and Rafah.

"We are civilians," said Ahmed Ayesh, who was rescued from the rubble of a house in Khan Younis where health officials said 11 people had been killed. "This is the bravery of the so-called Israel, they show their might and power against civilians, babies inside, kids inside, and elderly."

As he spoke, rescuers at the house used their hands to try to free a girl buried up to her waist in debris.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would consider "tactical little pauses" in Gaza fighting to let hostages leave or aid enter, but again rejected increasingly forceful calls for a ceasefire.