The death toll increased substantially as Israel continued to clash with Hamas fighters in major cities of the Gaza Strip on Thursday. Nearly 2 million displaced Gazans were struggling with food shortages while seeking secure shelter.
The Gaza health ministry reports that over 17,170 Palestinians have lost their lives and another 46,000 have been injured since October 7. This date marks the beginning of Israel’s heavy bombardment on Gaza as a reaction to a cross-border assault by Hamas. As per Israeli records, this attack by Hamas resulted in 1,200 fatalities and around 240 individuals taken captive.
Locals reported intense conflicts east of Khan Younis, the largest city in southern Gaza. Palestinian health authorities confirmed that an Israeli airstrike killed three Gazans in a residential building in Deir Al-Balah, central Gaza.
Israel stated its forces had eliminated several gunmen including two who initiated gunfire from a tunnel in Khan Younis.
Israeli television broadcasted unverified footage showing what they claimed were apprehended Hamas fighters sitting semi-nude with heads bowed on a street in Gaza City.
Several Palestinians identified their family members among those captured and refuted any affiliations to Hamas or other factions. Hani Almadhoun, a Virginia-based Palestinian American saw his relatives’ images and insisted to Reuters that they were “innocent civilians without ties to Hamas or any other group.”
He added, “They detained my brother Mahmoud (32), his son Omar (13), my nephew Aboud (27), my father (72), along with several of our relations from our family home near the market area.”
Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, an Israeli military spokesperson said soldiers are combating militants at key locations controlled by Hamas. He mentioned that all individuals emerging from tunnels or houses are investigated for links to Hamas before detention and interrogation but did not comment specifically about the televised images. However, he noted hundreds have been interrogated so far and many have surrendered recently.
Many Gazans fled towards Rafah on Egypt’s southern border following Israeli advisories suggesting safety there after consecutive warnings to move southward.
The United States “urges” Israel to enhance the protection of civilians.
Top White House national security aide, Jon Finer, stated that there is no definitive timeline for Israel to cease major combat operations against Hamas in the Gaza Strip amidst ongoing conflict. Speaking at the Aspen Security Forum in Washington, Finer noted numerous “legitimate military targets” remain in south Gaza, including a significant portion of the Hamas leadership.
A humanitarian pause from Nov. 24-Dec. 1 facilitated increased aid delivery to Palestinian territories and enabled prisoner exchanges between Israel and Hamas. However, according to White House security spokesperson John Kirby during a press briefing on Thursday, another deal concerning a humanitarian pause isn’t imminent.
In separate phone calls with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jordan’s King Abdullah, U.S President Joe Biden stressed the urgent necessity of civilian protection. He urged separation of civilians from Hamas through safe corridors allowing people to move away from defined conflict zones safely.
“U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, reiterated his call for Israel to prioritize the safety of Palestinian civilians during a press conference in Washington. “There is an urgent need for Israel to emphasize civilian protection. There’s still a discrepancy between the intention to safeguard civilians and the actual outcomes we observe on-site,” said Blinken after his meeting with British Foreign Secretary David Cameron.