BLOG Israeli forces in Khan Yunis: Biggest ground offensive since ceasefire collapse

The war between Israel and Hamas - 60st day

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Air attacks on Khan Yunis, Photo: Reuters
Air attacks on Khan Yunis, Photo: Reuters
Ažurirano: 05.12.2023. 22:10h
22: 09h

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met today with the families of the returned hostages in a meeting that some of those present described as loud and angry, Reuters reports.

The meeting was held at a time when fighting resumed in the Gaza Strip after a seven-day break in which more than 100 hostages returned from the enclave.

The fate of the 138 prisoners who remained is still open.

"I heard stories that broke my heart, I heard about thirst and hunger, about physical and psychological abuse," Netanyahu said at a press conference.

"I've heard, and you've heard, of sexual assault and brutal rape unlike anything else."

Several relatives who attended the meeting were bitterly critical of the government.

Dani Miran, whose son Omri was taken hostage by Hamas gunmen on October 7 along with about 240 other Israelis and foreigners, said he felt the meeting insulted his intelligence and walked out in the middle of the meeting.

"I won't go into the details of what was discussed at the meeting, but this whole performance was ugly, offensive, messy," he told Israel's Channel 13, saying the government had made a "farce" out of the issue.

"They say 'we did this, we did that'. (Gaza Hamas leader Yahya) Sinwar is the one who brought our people back, not them. It makes me angry that they say they dictated things. They didn't dictate a single move."

The meeting was intended as a forum for the freed hostages to tell the ministers about their experience in captivity.

A group representing the families of the hostages released a series of unnamed quotes it said were taken from comments made by some of the former hostages at the meeting.

"It was a very turbulent meeting, many were shouting," said Jennifer Master, whose partner is Andrej the hostage.

Israel says a number of women and children remain in the hands of Hamas, while families with adult male relatives in captivity are urging them not to be forgotten.

"We are all trying for our loved ones to come home. There are those who want the remaining wives or the children left behind, and those who say we want the men," Master told Israel's Channel 12.

21: 05h

Israel has stepped up its bombardment of Khan Younis, Gaza's second largest city, as well as its surroundings, where the largest ground offensive since the collapse of the ceasefire is underway.

Israeli forces, with the help of fighter jets, reached the center of Khan Yunis, the Voice of America reports.

"This is the most intense day since the beginning of the ground operation," the commander of the Israeli army's southern command, Yaron Finkelman, said in Jerusalem.

He said that Israeli forces are fighting in Jabalia, a large urban refugee camp and refuge of Hamas in the north of the enclave, near Gaza City, as well as east of that area.

"We are in the center of Jabalija, Shujaija and Khan Yunis," said Finkelman.

After days of telling residents to leave Khan Yunis, Israeli forces today dropped new leaflets instructing citizens to seek shelter while the attack continues.

"For your safety, stay in shelters and hospitals. Do not go out. It is dangerous outside. You have been warned," said the message to residents of six districts, which make up about a quarter of Khan Yunis.

Chief of the General Staff of the Israeli Armed Forces Herzi Halevi said that, 60 days after the start of the war, their forces have now surrounded the area of ​​Khan Yunis.

"We have secured many Hamas sanctuaries in the northern Gaza Strip and now we are operating against the sanctuaries in the south," Halevi said.

After capturing most of northern Gaza, the Israelis have expanded their ground offensive to the south because they believe Hamas commanders are in the territory's vast network of tunnels.

"We are now moving forward with the second phase, which will be militarily difficult," an Israeli government spokesman said, adding that Israel is open to constructive advice on how to reduce civilian casualties, as long as it is consistent with the goal of destroying Hamas.

Hamas's armed wing, the al-Qassam Brigades, said its fighters destroyed or damaged 24 Israeli military vehicles and that snipers killed or wounded eight Israeli soldiers in clashes in Khan Younis.

Under US pressure to avoid greater civilian casualties in the conflict with Hamas, Israel says it is carrying out more precise strikes, while expanding its offensive in southern Gaza.

However, Palestinians say there are no longer any areas where they feel safe, and many fear that if they leave their homes, they will never be able to return.

Palestinian health officials said a large number of people were killed in an attack on houses in Deir al-Balah, north of Khan Yunis.

The director of a hospital in the area told Reuters that at least 45 people had died.

Reuters could not confirm that figure.

Many people fled from the northern part of the belt to the south in the earlier stages of the war.


20: 55h

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said today that he heard stories of sexual abuse at a meeting with hostages returned by Hamas during the recent pause in fighting in Gaza, Reuters reports.

"I have heard, and you have also heard, about sexual abuse and incidents of brutal rape like nothing else," he said at a press conference.

20: 22h

A total of 82 Israeli soldiers have died fighting in the Gaza Strip since the beginning of the Israeli offensive against the Palestinian Islamist Hamas in that enclave, the army announced today.

During the afternoon, the army's communications bureau announced that a total of 80 soldiers had died after the death of five soldiers on Monday, and later this evening it was announced that two more soldiers were killed in fighting in the Gaza Strip.

After three weeks of intense bombing, Israel launched a ground offensive on the Gaza Strip on October 27 in response to an October 7 attack by Hamas in southern Israel that killed 1.200 people, mostly civilians, according to Israeli authorities.

Israeli bombings in Gaza have killed more than 16.200 people, mostly civilians, according to the Hamas health ministry.


19: 54h

There are currently 138 Israeli hostages in the Gaza Strip, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office told AFP today, after a person previously thought to be missing was added to the list.

The cabinet did not want to give details about that hostage or how the authorities confirmed that he was alive.


18: 53h

Israeli forces have killed at least 7 people in Gaza since October 16.248, according to the Hamas media office, Reuters reports.

At least 43.616 people were injured, and at least 7.600 people are missing, according to the statement.

"During the aggression against Gaza, Israeli forces dropped more than 50.000 tons of explosives on civilian homes, hospitals, schools and other institutions, resulting in the complete destruction of 52.000 housing units, 69 schools, 121 government buildings and 100 mosques," the statement said. . .

Change: 19:17 p.m
17: 29h

At least 45 people were killed in an Israeli airstrike on houses in Deir al-Balah in central Gaza, health officials said, according to Reuters.

"We have received 45 martyrs from the Israeli bombardment of the houses of three families in Deir al-Balah in the past hour," Dr. Eyad Al-Jabri, head of Shuhada Al-Aqsa Hospital in Deir al-Balah, told Reuters.

17: 27h

Israeli forces are surrounding the town of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip as the war enters a new phase after a seven-day pause to allow the return of some hostages, Israel's top military commander said today, Reuters reports.

"Sixty days after the start of the war, our forces are now encircling the Khan Yunis area in the southern Gaza Strip," said Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, chief of the General Staff.

"We have secured many of Hamas' strongholds in the northern Gaza Strip, and now we are operating against its strongholds in the south," he said.

17: 25h

The Israeli government is unclear about the future of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Nothing is better in the occupied West Bank. There, Palestinians are disillusioned with their leadership.

16: 26h

Israeli forces were engaged in the heaviest fighting since the beginning of the invasion of Gaza, a senior commander said today, Reuters reports.

"We are in the most intense day since the ground operation began," said the commander of the Israel Defense Forces' Southern Command, Gen. Yaron Finkelman.

13: 59h

France has frozen for six months the assets of Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya Sinuar, who is considered the mastermind of the Palestinian militant movement's October 7 attack on Israel.

"Funds and economic resources belonging to, owned, held or controlled by Jahj Sinuar are subject to asset freezing measures," said the French government's decision of November 30, which comes into effect.

The Ministry of Finance was not available to specify the amount of frozen assets, writes Figaro, as reported by Tanjug.

13: 58h

More than 15.900 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since October 7, Palestinian Health Minister Mai el Kail said.

Speaking in Ramallah on the West Bank, the minister said that 250 health workers were among the dead, reports Reuters.

13: 57h

About 43 dead bodies were brought to Nasser Hospital in the southern Gaza city of Khan Yunis, a spokesman for the Hamas-controlled Gaza Ministry of Health told Reuters.

13: 57h

Israeli army spokesman Richard Hecht urged Palestinian civilians in the south in Khan Younis to adhere to security instructions, aimed at keeping them out of harm's way as fighting intensifies.

"Civilians should follow the instructions coming from our Twitter accounts and online page, as well as read the leaflets that land in their areas," spokesman Hecht said, as reported by Reuters.

13: 56h

The official of the World Health Organization in Gaza, Richard Piperkorn, said that the situation in Gaza is getting worse "by the hour", according to Reuters.

"Intensified bombing is everywhere, including in the southern areas, in Khan Younis and even in Rafah," Piperkorn said.

13: 56h

Tel Aviv expects heavy fighting in the new phase of the war in Gaza, but is open to "constructive information" on reducing civilian casualties, Israeli government spokesman Aylon Levy said.

He points out that the Israeli government is ready for advice, only if they are in line with its goal to destroy the Palestinian group Hamas, reports Reuters.

"We are moving forward with the second stage, which will be difficult in the military sense," Levi said.

10: 23h

The spokesman of the Israeli army, Yonatan Konrikus, said, speaking about the casualties in the war, that "the ratio of two Palestinians killed for every Hamas extremist", as he assessed, is "extremely positive", bearing in mind the "challenges of the urban conflict".

He said this after Agence France-Presse, referring to a meeting of high-ranking Israeli officials with journalists, announced last night that the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) stated that the relationship was a casualty in the war so far: "two civilians were killed by a Hamas member".

When asked by CNN about the report, Lt. Col. Conricus said he could confirm it.

"I can say that if that is true, and I think our numbers will back it up, if you compare that relationship in any other conflict in urban terrain between the military and a terrorist organization that uses civilians as human shields and is embedded in the civilian population, you will to see that this relationship is exceptional, extremely positive and perhaps unique in the world," said an Israeli military spokesman.

Israel's Defense Minister Yoav Galant told reporters at a conference on Saturday that the army had killed "thousands of terrorists". The Israeli army has not officially released estimates of the number of those killed.

France Press reported that an unnamed Israeli official, when asked if he could confirm the killing of around 5.000 Hamas extremists, replied that the numbers were more or less correct.

The Health Ministry in Gaza, which is ruled by Hamas, announced on Monday that 15.899 Palestinians, 70 percent of them women and minors, have been killed in Israeli attacks since the war began on October 7.

That ministry does not announce how many civilians are among those killed.

State Department official Barbara Leaf told the US Congress in November that it was difficult to estimate the death toll while the conflict was ongoing and that she believed it could be much higher than reported.

"We think it's very high frankly. And it could be even higher than it's being announced. We'll know when the guns fall silent," said Barbara Leaf, US assistant secretary of state for Middle East affairs.


10: 20h

Early this morning, the Israeli army intensified its bombardment of the second largest city in Gaza, Khan Yunis, and its surroundings in a new phase of the war, which is entering its 60th day.

Ambulances and private cars non-stop brought wounded people to the local hospital, eyewitnesses said.

Although the US is pressuring Israel to prevent large civilian casualties, Jerusalem is expanding its offensive to the south of the Gaza Strip after destroying much of the north, claiming that its army is more accurate in hitting targets.

Airstrikes and a ground offensive have already forced three-quarters of the 2,3 million inhabitants to flee their homes.

The Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis received dozens of people who were wounded last night when the places where the Israeli army told them to take shelter and be safe were attacked.

More than 400.000 people lived in that city before the war, and in recent days the Israeli army has ordered the residents to move out of more than twenty neighborhoods, as it did in the north.

However, most of the residents from the north have taken refuge in the south since the beginning of the ground offensive on October 27, and the Palestinians claim that they are not safe anywhere because Israel continues to bombard the entire besieged territory, AP reports.

There is no place where the displaced feel safe fearing that they will never be allowed to return.

Israel's goal is to destroy the military infrastructure of Hamas and oust it from power in order to prevent a repeat of the October 7 attacks that sparked the war.

In those sudden, unprecedented attacks, Hamas and other Palestinian extremists entered southern Israel through the border fence, killed over 1.200 people, mostly civilians, and took about 240 hostages to Gaza.

Israel's stepped-up military operations in the south against the Islamist Hamas have increased fears that "the scenario will be even more hellish for civilians," as the UN said.

The ground offensive began on October 27 in the north of the besieged Palestinian territory, and the Israeli army gradually expanded military operations to the entire Gaza Strip almost two months after the war began.

Since the renewal of the conflict on December 1, after a week-long ceasefire, the army has intensively bombarded the south of Gaza and hundreds of residents have been killed and wounded, including displaced people who took refuge there.

In addition to the fierce clashes near Khan Yunis, the new epicenter of tension, eyewitnesses told Agence France-Presse that there were airstrikes in the direction of Rafah at the southernmost end of the territory.

The clashes have not stopped in the north either and the Palestinian Wafa agency reported that several people were killed.

Early this morning, the military wing of Hamas announced that it had fired a barrage of rocket fire in the direction of Bersheva, a large city in Israel's Negev desert.

International organizations are alarmed because of the risk to civilians, among other things, because all telecommunication services in Gaza are at a standstill.

"An even more hellish scenario is about to unfold that humanitarian operations may not be able to respond to," said Lynn Hastings, UN humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories.

The Hamas Health Ministry announced on Monday that 15.899 people, 70 percent of whom were women and minors, had been killed since the start of the war.


08: 11h

About 120 Russian citizens evacuated from the Gaza Strip arrived in Moscow on a chartered flight, the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations announced.

Among them are 30 children. Since the beginning of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas, 880 Russian citizens have been evacuated from the Gaza Strip, writes Reuters.

The spokesman of the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations, Roman Okhotenko, pointed out that Russia has delivered more than 288 tons of humanitarian aid to the population of Gaza.

08: 10h

Israel is preparing a large system of water pumps that it could use to flood Hamas tunnels under Gaza, in an attempt to drive Hamas members out of them, Reuters reports, citing American media.

The IDF has completed the installation of at least five pumps about two kilometers north of the Shati refugee camp, which could release thousands of cubic meters of water per hour and flood Palestinian militant tunnels for weeks, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing US officials.

It is not known whether Israel will consider using the pumps before all the hostages, held by Hamas since the start of the conflict, are freed, the report said.

Hamas previously said it was holding prisoners in "safe places and tunnels".

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