Israel widens evacuation orders as it shifts its offensive to southern Gaza amid heavy bombardments

Israel widens evacuation orders as it shifts its offensive to southern Gaza amid heavy bombardments

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Israel widens evacuation orders as it shifts its offensive to southern Gaza amid heavy bombardments

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KHAN YOUNIS, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israel’s military on Sunday ordered more areas in and around Gaza’s second-largest city of Khan Younis to evacuate, as it shifted its offensive to the southern half of the territory where it says many Hamas leaders are hiding.

Heavy bombardments were reported overnight and into Sunday in the area of Khan Younis and the southern city of Rafah, as well as parts of the north that had been the focus of Israel’s blistering air and ground campaign.

Many of the territory’s 2.3 million people are crammed in the south after Israeli forces ordered civilians to leave the north in the early days of the 2-month-old war.

With the resumption of fighting, hopes receded that another temporary truce could be negotiated. A weeklong cease-fire, which expired Friday, had facilitated the release of dozens of Gaza-held Israeli and foreign hostages and Palestinians imprisoned by Israel.

“We will continue the war until we achieve all its goals, and it’s impossible to achieve those goals without the ground operation,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in an address Saturday night.

On Sunday, the Israeli military widened evacuation orders in and around Khan Younis, asking residents of at least five more areas and neighborhoods to leave for their safety.

Residents said the Israeli military dropped leaflets ordering them to move south to Rafah or to a coastal area in the southwest. “Khan Younis city is a dangerous combat zone,” the leaflets read.

The main hospital in Khan Younis received at least three dead and dozens wounded Sunday morning from an Israeli strike that hit a residential building in the eastern part of the city, according to an Associated Press journalist at the hospital.

Separately, the bodies of 31 people who were killed in Israeli bombardment across the central areas of the strip were taken to the Al-Aqsa Martyrs hospital in Gaza’s central city of Deir al-Balah, said Omar al-Darawi, an administrative employee at that hospital.

AP video showed bodies in white body bags on the ground outside the hospital in Deri al-Balah as dozens of people held funeral prayers Sunday morning. The bodies were then taken on a truck for burial.

One woman wept, cradling the body of a child on her lap as she sat on a chair. Another adult carried the body of a baby as he got into a truck.

U.N. monitors said in a report issued before the latest evacuation orders that those who were told to leave make up about one-quarter of the territory of Gaza — home to nearly 800,000 people before the war.
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The United States, Israel’s closest ally, has warned Israel to avoid significant new mass displacement.

The Israeli military said Sunday that its fighter jets and helicopters “struck terror targets in the Gaza Strip, including terror tunnel shafts, command centers and weapons storage facilities” overnight, while a drone killed five Hamas fighters.

In northern Gaza, rescue teams with little equipment scrambled Sunday to dig through the rubble of buildings in the Jabaliya refugee camp and other neighborhoods in Gaza City in search for potential survivors and dead bodies.

“They strike everywhere,” said Amal Radwan, a woman sheltering in Jabaliya, an urban refugee camp. “There is the non-stop sound of explosions around us.”

Mohamed Abu Abed, who lives in the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood in Gaza City, also said there were relentless airstrikes and shelling in his neighborhood and surrounding areas.
 




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