Israeli tanks reach the center of Khan Yunis in a new storm in southern Gaza

  • Recent Developments:
  • Gaza health officials put the death toll at 18,000
  • WHO says improving health status is almost impossible
  • The Israel-Hezbollah conflict has intensified along the Lebanese border

Gaza/Cairo, Dec. 10 (Reuters) – Israeli tanks battled into the heart of Khan Younis on Sunday, according to health officials in Hamas-run Gaza, killing 18,000 Palestinians. Killed in battle.

Residents said tanks reached the main north-south road through the middle of Khan Younis after intense fighting that slowed the Israeli advance from the east through the night. Fighter jets were attacking on the west side of the attack.

The air roared with a series of explosions and thick columns of white smoke rose over the densely crowded city.

As morning broke near the city center police station, the sound of machine gun fire continued. The streets were deserted except for an old lady and a woman in a donkey cart.

“It was one of the most terrible nights, the resistance was so strong, we could hear gunfire and explosions non-stop for hours,” Khan Younis, a father of four displaced from Gaza City, told Reuters. He declined to be identified for fear of retaliation.

At the opposite end of the Gaza Strip, in northern areas where Israel previously said its forces had largely completed their missions, residents described some of the fiercest fighting of the war so far.

“I dare say this is the strongest battle we’ve heard in weeks,” said Nasser, 59, a father of seven who stayed in Jabaliya after his home was destroyed in Beit Lahiya, another northern region. Explosions rang out as he spoke. They will leave us alone.”

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Israel has vowed to destroy Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2007. Militants crossed the fence on October 7 and rampaged through Israeli towns, shooting families in their homes, killing 1,200 people and taking 240 hostages.

Since then, Gaza’s health authorities have said Israeli attacks have killed about 18,000 people and wounded 49,500, with thousands more missing and presumed dead in the rubble. Beyond where ambulances and hospitals have stopped functioning, figures for the northern parts of the enclave are no longer included in the bill.

Who is alive?

After weeks of concentrated fighting in the north, Israel this week launched a ground offensive in the south by storming Khan Yunis. With fighting now raging across the Gaza Strip, international aid agencies say its 2.3 million people have nowhere to hide.

The World Health Organization said it was unlikely to improve the “catastrophic” situation in Gaza, where medical needs have increased and the risk of disease has grown while the health system has been greatly reduced.

At the site of Khan Younis’ home, which was destroyed in an overnight blast, relatives of the dead combed through the rubble in dismay. They dragged the body of a middle-aged man in a yellow T-shirt from under the masons.

“We prayed the night prayer and went to sleep, then we woke up to the house above us. ‘Who’s alive?!'” Ahmed Abdel Wahab said.

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“The top three floors have collapsed and people are under it,” he said. “My mother and father, my sister and brother, all my relatives.”

The main hospital in Khan Yunis, Nasser Hospital, is overflowing with dead and wounded. There was no floor in the emergency department on Sunday as people carried the injured on blankets and carpets. Mohammed Abu Shihab wept and vowed revenge for his son, who he said had been killed by an Israeli sniper.

The Israeli military said it had bombed underground tunnel shafts in Khan Yunis and hit an ambushed group of Palestinian gunmen, but made no mention of any tank advances.

Hamas said its fighters damaged 180 Israeli military vehicles during the fighting, without producing evidence, and said Israel could not force the release of the remaining hostages through negotiations alone.

Most of the residents of Gaza are now forced to flee their homes. Israel says it is doing all it can to protect civilians, but even its closest ally, the United States, says it has not kept those promises.

An Israeli blockade cut off supplies, and the United Nations warned of mass starvation and disease.

Growing fears

Fighting intensified on Sunday between Israel and the Iran-backed Hezbollah movement in Lebanon, fueled by the Gaza conflict.

At an international conference in the Qatari capital of Doha, Arab foreign ministers who acted as key mediators for a week-long ceasefire that freed more than 100 hostages rejected a humanitarian request from the UN. Ceasefire in Gaza.

Qatar’s Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said the war risks radicalizing a generation across the Middle East. Jordan’s foreign minister said the Israeli campaign was aimed at driving Palestinians from Gaza and met the legal definition of genocide, adding that Israel’s accusations were outrageous.

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UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he would not give up his appeal for a ceasefire.

“I urged the Security Council to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe and reiterated my call for a humanitarian ceasefire to be declared,” Guterres said. “Unfortunately, the Security Council failed to do that, but that doesn’t make it any less necessary.”

Israel has rejected calls for a ceasefire. Briefing his cabinet on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he told the leaders of France, Germany and other countries: “On the one hand you cannot support the elimination of Hamas and on the other hand you cannot pressure us to end the war. The elimination of Hamas.”

(Reporting by Bassam Massoud and Mohammed Salem in Gaza, Nidal al-Mughrabi, Dan Williams, Ari Rabinovitch, Emily Rose and Henriette Saker in Jerusalem; Editing by Peter Graf and Angus McDowell; Editing by Catherine Evans and Nick McPhee)

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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A veteran reporter with nearly 25 years of experience covering the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, including several wars and the signing of the first historic peace agreement between the two sides.

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