Since October 7, when Hamas gunmen killed 1,400 people and took around 240 hostages in a cross-border attack, Israel has been attacking Gaza from the air and using ground troops to split the coastal territory in two.
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Gaza City, the main stronghold of Hamas in the territory, is surrounded. Israel says its troops have advanced into the “heart” of the city, while Hamas says its fighters have inflicted heavy casualties on Israelis.
Israeli army spokesman Daniel Hagari said Israeli engineers were using explosive devices to destroy a network of tunnels built by Hamas that stretches hundreds of kilometers under Gaza. Israeli tanks are facing strong resistance from militants who use the tunnels for ambushes, sources from Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group said. Similar statements by individual parties to the conflict cannot be directly independently verified.
The Israelis are concerned that the military operations could further endanger the hostages who are believed to be held in the tunnels. Israel is not going to agree to a ceasefire until these prisoners are released. Hamas says it will not stop fighting as long as Gaza is under attack.
Escape of civilians
Civilians usually flee during a four-hour window set daily by the Israeli military that ensures safe passage from Gaza City and its environs to the south. Most of those leaving on Tuesday were children, the elderly and people with disabilities, the UN agency said. Many came on foot with minimal belongings.
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Newly, some of those fleeing reported having to cross Israeli checkpoints to reach the south and witnessing arrests by Israeli forces. Others are said to have had to walk past Israeli tanks with their hands raised and waving white flags.
However, tens of thousands of Palestinian civilians remain in the fighting zone, many of whom are sheltering in UN hospitals or schools.
Some of them said they were deterred from moving south by the dismal humanitarian conditions in the evacuation zone and the ongoing Israeli airstrikes across the entire Gaza Strip, including the south.
About 1.5 million of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents have been displaced, according to UN monitors. The number of Palestinians killed in the war, which has entered its second month, has exceeded 10,300, including more than 4,200 children, the health ministry in Gaza, which is controlled by Hamas, said on Tuesday.
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