Monday, 10 June 2024 04:34

Here’s the latest as Israel-Hamas war enters Day 248

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Israel keeps pounding central Gaza as Palestinian death toll in hostage rescue raid rises to 274

Israeli forces pounded central Gaza anew on Sunday, a day after killing 274 Palestinians during a hostage rescue raid, and tanks advanced further into Rafah in an apparent bid to seal off part of the southern city, residents and Hamas media said.

Palestinians remained in shock over Saturday's death toll, the worst over a 24-hour period of the Gaza war for months and including many women and children, Palestinian medics said.

In an update on Sunday, Gaza's health ministry said 274 Palestinians were killed - up from 210 it reported on Saturday - and 698 were injured when Israeli special force commandos stormed into the densely populated Al-Nuseirat camp to rescue four hostages held since October by Hamas militants.

Sixty-four of the dead were children and 57 were women, the Hamas-run Gaza government media office said on Sunday.

Israel's military said a special forces officer was killed in exchanges of fire with militants emerging from cover in residential blocks, and that it knew of "under 100" Palestinians killed, though not how many of them were fighters or civilians.

Hamas' armed wing said on Sunday three Israeli hostages, including one with U.S. citizenship, were killed during the raid, but provided no names. It released a video of what appeared to be corpses with censor bars obscuring their faces.

A Hamas assertion on Saturday that some hostages had died was rejected as "a blatant lie" by the Israeli military.

Gaza's health ministry said another 798 Palestinians were injured in the Israeli raid, and one of them, 4-year-old Tawfiq Abu Youssef, was in critical condition when visited in hospital on Sunday by his father Raed.

The boy was first thought to have died before he moved his hand slightly while in the arms of a relative rushing him to hospital - captured in a video that went viral on social media.

"I had already dug his grave," his father told Reuters, adding that most members of his extended family were among those killed in the raid.


In central Gaza on Sunday, Israeli airstrikes on houses in the city of Deir Al-Balah and in the nearby Al-Bureij refugee camp killed three Palestinians in each location, while tanks shelled parts of Al-Nuseirat and Al-Maghazi camps, medics said.

The Israeli military said in a statement its forces were continuing operations east of Al-Bureij and Deir al-Balah, killing a number of Palestinian gunmen and destroying militant infrastructure.

Israel sent forces into Rafah in May in what it called a mission to wipe out Hamas' last intact combat units after eight months of war, in which Israeli forces have bombed much of the rest of Gaza to rubble while advancing against fierce resistance from militants embedded in crowded cities and built-up camps.

Israeli tank forces have since seized Gaza's entire border strip with Egypt running through Rafah to the Mediterranean coast and invaded many districts of the city of 280,000 residents, prompting around one million displaced people who had been sheltering in Rafah to flee elsewhere.


On Sunday, tanks advanced into two new districts in an apparent effort to complete the encirclement of the entire eastern side of Rafah, touching off clashes with dug-in Hamas-led armed groups, according to residents trapped in their homes.

Palestinian medics said an Israeli airstrike on a house in Tel Al-Sultan in western Rafah killed two people.

The Israeli military said troops of its 162nd division were raiding some districts of Rafah where they had located "numerous additional terror tunnel shafts, mortars, and (other) weapons" belonging to Palestinian Islamist militants.

Hamas precipitated the war with a lightning cross-border attack into Israel last Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and seizing over 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies. About half the hostages were freed during a brief November truce.

Israel's ensuing air and ground war in Gaza has killed at least 37,084 Palestinians, the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory said in its Sunday update. The ministry says thousands more dead are feared buried under the rubble.

Attempts by the United States and regional countries to broker a deal that would release all remaining hostages in return for a ceasefire have repeatedly stumbled on Israeli and Hamas intransigence over terms for an end to the war.

A humanitarian catastrophe has unfolded as the war has dragged on, with over three-quarters of Gaza's 2.3 million population displaced, malnutrition widespread and basic infrastructure in ruins.

Gaza's conflict has destabilised the wider Middle East, drawing in Hamas' main supporter Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah, which has been clashing with Israel along its northern border for months, raising fears of all-out war.

Concern about an escalation in Israeli-Hezbollah hostilities and a sharp decline in expectations of a Gaza ceasefire have weakened Israel's shekel currency by 3% to 3.75 to the dollar since June 4.

** Israeli PM Netanyahu's majority safe after Gantz departure

Israeli war cabinet minister Benny Gantz announced on Sunday that he was quitting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's emergency unity government formed shortly after the Hamas Oct 7. attack on Israel.

His departure still leaves Netanyahu's nationalist-religious coalition in control of parliament with a 64-seat majority in the 120 seat Knesset.

Gantz, a former armed forces chief and defence minister, heads the centrist National Unity party which holds eight seats.

Netanyahu's conservative Likud party, the largest faction, has 32 parliament seats. Defence Minister Yoav Gallant is a member of the party and has clashed with Netanyahu and some nationalists in the government over Gaza strategy.

Settler party Religious Zionism, headed by Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, holds seven seats.

Ultra-nationalist Jewish Power, headed by National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, and Noam hold six and one seats respectively.

The ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties Shas and United Torah Judaism hold 11 and 7 seats respectively.



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