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Heavy fighting across Gaza as Israel presses ahead with renewed U.S. military and diplomatic support

Palestinians displaced by the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip sit around their newborn daughter at their makeshift tent
Palestinians displaced by the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip sit around their newborn daughter at their makeshift tent near al Aqsa Hospital in Deir al Balah, Gaza Strip, on Sunday.
(Adel Hana / Associated Press)
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Heavy fighting raged Sunday across Gaza, including in the devastated north, as Israel pressed ahead with its offensive against Hamas militants after the U.S. blocked the latest international push for a cease-fire and rushed more munitions to its close ally.

Israel has faced rising international outrage and calls for a permanent cease-fire after the deaths of thousands of Palestinian civilians. About 90% of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have been displaced within the besieged territory, where U.N. agencies say there is no safe place to flee.

The United States has lent vital support to the offensive once again in recent days, by vetoing United Nations Security Council efforts with wide support to end the fighting, and by pushing through an emergency sale of more than $100-million worth of tank ammunition to Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked President Biden for the “important ammunition for the continuation of the war.”

Also on Sunday, Netanyahu spoke to President Vladimir Putin of Russia, who supported the U.N. resolution, and expressed dissatisfaction with “anti-Israel positions” taken by Moscow’s envoys at the U.N. and elsewhere, an Israeli statement said.

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Netanyahu told Putin that any country assaulted the way Israel was “would have reacted with no less force than Israel is using,” the statement added.

The U.S. has pledged unwavering support for Israel’s goal of crushing Hamas’ military and governing abilities, and returning all the hostages kidnapped by Hamas in its Oct. 7 attack that triggered the war. Hamas and other Palestinian militants stormed into southern Israel that day, killing some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and kidnappingaround 240 more, more than 100 of whom were released during a week-long cease-fire late last month.

Israel’s air and ground war in response has killed thousands of Palestinians, mostly civilians, and forced some 1.9 million people to flee their homes. With a trickle of aid allowed in, and delivery impossible in much of the territory, Palestinians face severe shortages of food, water and other basic goods.

“Expect public order to completely break down soon, and an even worse situation could unfold including epidemic diseases and increased pressure for mass displacement into Egypt,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told a forum in Qatar, a key intermediary.

Eylon Levy, an Israeli government spokesman, called allegations of mass displacement from Gaza “outrageous and false.”

Qatar’s prime minister, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, told the forum that mediation efforts will continue to stop the war and have all hostages released, but “unfortunately, we are not seeing the same willingness that we had seen in the weeks before.”

Israel’s national security advisor, Tzachi Hanegbi, told Israel’s Channel 12 TV that the U.S. has set no deadline for Israel to achieve its goals of dismantling Hamas and returning all hostages.

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“The evaluation that this can’t be measured in weeks is correct, and I’m not sure it can be measured in months,” he said.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken told CNN that “we have these discussions with Israel including about the duration as well as how it’s prosecuting this campaign against Hamas. These are decisions for Israel to make.” He added to ABC: “When it comes to a cease-fire in this moment, with Hamas still alive, still intact ... that would simply perpetuate the problem.”

Jordan’s foreign minister Ayman Safadi said at the Qatar forum that the war cannot be won, and warned that “Israel has created an amount of hatred that will haunt this region that will define generations to come.”

Israeli forces face heavy resistance, even in northern Gaza, where neighborhoods have been flattened by air strikes and where ground troops have operated for more than six weeks.

Israel’s Channel 13 TV broadcast video showed dozens of detainees stripped to their underwear, hands in the air. Several held assault rifles above their heads, and one man walked forward and placed a gun on the ground.

Other videos have shown groups of unarmed men held in similar conditions, bound and blindfolded. Detainees from a group who were released Saturday told the Associated Press they had been beaten and denied food and water.

Israeli military spokesperson Daniel Hagari said the arrests took place in two Hamas strongholds, Jabaliya and Shijaiyah, and that people are undressed to make sure they are not hiding explosives. Those believed to be Hamas members are taken away for investigation, while others are told to head south.

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“We have arrested dozens of terrorists,” Hagari asserted.

Residents said there was still heavy fighting in the Gaza City neighborhood of Shijaiyah and the Jabaliya refugee camp, a dense urban area housing Palestinian families who fled or were driven out of what is now Israel during the 1948 war surrounding its creation.

“They are attacking anything that moves,” said Hamza Abu Fatouh, a Shijaiyah resident. He said the dead and wounded were left in the streets as ambulances could no longer reach the area, where Israeli snipers and tanks positioned themselves among abandoned buildings.

“The resistance also fights back,” he added.

Israel ordered the evacuation of the northern third of the territory, including Gaza City, early in the war, but tens of thousands of people have remained, fearing that the south would be no safer or that they would never be allowed to return to their homes.

Heavy fighting was also underway in and around the southern city of Khan Yunis.

The price of food has soared as much of Gaza faces severe shortages. Abdulsalam Majdalawi said he had come every day for nearly two weeks to a U.N. distribution center, hoping to get food for his family of seven.

“Every day, we spend five or six hours here and return home [empty handed],” he said. “Thank God, today they drew our name.”

One hundred trucks with humanitarian aid entered Sunday, said Wael Abu Omar, a spokesman for the Palestinian Crossings Authority.

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With the war in its third month, the Palestinian death toll in Gaza has surpassed 17,900 the majority women and children, according to the Health Ministry in the Hamas-controlled territory. The ministry does not differentiate between civilian and combatant deaths.

Israel holds Hamas responsible for civilian casualties, saying the militants put civilians in danger by fighting in dense, residential neighborhoods. The military says 97 Israeli soldiers have died in the ground offensive. Palestinian militants have continued firing rockets into Israel.

Netanyahu’s office said Hamas still has 117 hostages, as well as the remains of 20 people killed in captivity or during the Oct. 7 attack. The militants hope to exchange them for Palestinians imprisoned by Israel.

Israel says it has provided detailed instructions for civilians to evacuate to safer areas, even as it strikes what it says are militant targets in all parts of the territory. Thousands have fled to the southern town of Rafah and other areas along the border with Egypt — one of the last areas where aid agencies are able to deliver food and water.

The war has raised tensions across the region, with Lebanon’s Hezbollah trading fire with Israel along the border and other Iran-backed militant groups targeting the U.S. in Syria and Iraq.

France said one of its warships in the Red Sea shot down two drones that approached it from Yemen, where Iran-backed Houthi rebels have vowed to halt Israeli shipping through the key waterway.

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Israel’s national security advisor said Israel would give Western allies “some time” to organize a response but if the threats persist, “we will act to remove this blockade.”


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