Israeli ground forces yesterday attacked Hamas militants and infrastructure in the northern Gaza Strip, from where some 800,000 Palestinians fled in three weeks of hostilities despite persistent bombing throughout the besieged enclave, the Israeli Army reported.
Buoyed by the rescue of a first hostage, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected calls for a ceasefire and again vowed to destroy Hamas for its attacks in Israel this month, which left hundreds dead, more than 200 kidnapped and unleashed the escalation.
More than half of Gaza’s 2.4 million Palestinians left their homes in the violence, and hundreds of thousands are sheltered in UN-run schools or hospitals, along with thousands of wounded. Israeli strikes have hit near hospitals in northern Gaza in recent days, causing alarm among doctors, the UN and the Red Cross.
The UN agency for Palestinian refugees, known as Unrwa, says 672,000 Palestinians are housed in its schools, four times more than its capacity. Thousands of them broke into aid collection centers and took food over the weekend.
The head of UNRWA, Philippe Lazzarini, accused Israel last night in a speech before the UN Security Council of forcing the displacement of Palestinians from the north to the south of Gaza and said that they are not safe from bombing there either.
Hamas took 240 hostages in this month’s attack, according to a new report given by the Israeli Army, which on Monday announced it had rescued the first of them, a soldier who was “fine” and who had already been reunited with her family. The escalation triggered already high tensions in the West Bank, the other Palestinian territories, which are occupied by Israel and where more than 120 people have been killed in military operations or attacks by Israeli settlers since October 7, according to the Palestinian self-government.
The violence threatens to spread to the rest of the Middle East. Israel and militants from the Lebanese Islamist movement Hezbollah have exchanged fire across the border almost daily, and Israel and the United States have bombed targets in Syria linked to Iran, which supports Hamas, Hezbollah and Yemen’s Shiite Houthi rebels. Yesterday, the Houthis claimed to have launched a drone attack against Israel as an act of retaliation for its bombings in Gaza.