Israeli forces are surrounding the town of Khan Younis, Israel’s top military commander said, as the ground offensive expands to the south of the Gaza Strip.

“Sixty days after the start of the war, our forces are now encircling the Khan Younis area in the southern Gaza Strip,” Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, the Israeli army chief of staff, said on Tuesday.

“We have secured many Hamas strongholds in the northern Gaza Strip and are now moving against their strongholds in the south,” Halevi said, according to the Times of Israel newspaper, as he announced the next phase of Israel’s ground offensive against the Palestinian group.

“Anyone who thought that the IDF [Israeli army] “We would not know how to resume fighting after the ceasefire fails,” he added of the pause in hostilities that collapsed on Friday, allowing prisoners held in Gaza to be exchanged for Palestinians in Israeli prisons.

Hamas’s Osama Hamdan said there would be “no negotiations or anything like that.” [prisoner] “Swap” before the Israeli attack ends.

Speaking to reporters in Beirut, Hamdan also said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was “responsible” for the lives of Israeli prisoners in Gaza, adding that his real goal was to “eliminate the Palestinian people.”

The Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ armed wing, said it had been fighting against the Israeli army in all areas of the Gaza Strip since Tuesday morning.

A statement on the group’s Telegram channel said it had partially or completely destroyed 24 army vehicles in Khan Younis, Gaza’s second-largest city. It added that its snipers killed and wounded eight Israeli soldiers.

More than a million Palestinians have been displaced from the northern Gaza Strip since the Israeli military ordered residents there to evacuate to the south on October 13, 24 hours in advance.

After the week-long ceasefire ended, the Israeli military ordered the evacuation of Palestinians from the southern Gaza Strip.

The families in Khan Younis packed up and headed further south to Rafah, a town on the Egyptian border. Al Jazeera’s Tareq Abu Azzoum, reporting from Rafah, said the narrow spit of land was already crowded with people camping outdoors and lacked basic services such as water and sanitation.

“Rafah is now the last refuge for Palestinians, [but] The bombardment continues in this area too,” he said.

Richard Peeperkorn, the World Health Organization’s representative for the occupied Palestinian territories, told reporters via video link from Gaza that “the situation is getting worse by the hour.”

“Increased bombardments are taking place everywhere, including here in the southern areas, Khan Younis and even in Rafah,” Peeperkorn said.

The WHO has repeatedly warned that the spread of disease could be even deadlier than airstrikes. While disease surveillance systems are hampered, the UN agency has noted a rise in infectious diseases, including acute respiratory infections, scabies and diarrhea.

Thomas White, director of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) in Gaza, said the agency was “unable to care for more internally displaced persons (IDPs)”.

“Typically, Rafah has a population of 280,000 people, and hosting around 470,000 IDPs alone will not accommodate a doubling of the IDP population,” White said.

Adnan Abu Hasna, a UNRWA official, said the organization expected more than a million people to arrive in Gaza’s southernmost city in the coming days.

“We have tens of thousands of families on the streets. They already are [sheltering] among random things – pieces of nylon and wood. It is raining right now. We will see the catastrophe,” he said, adding that about 50 to 70 aid trucks entering Gaza daily through the Rafah border do not come close to meeting the needs of the displaced.

At the 44th Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit that began on Tuesday in the Qatari capital Doha, Qatar’s Emir said the deaths of innocent Palestinians in Gaza amounted to “genocide by Israel.”

“It is a disgrace for the international community to allow this heinous crime to continue… with the systematic and targeted killing of innocent unarmed civilians,” Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani said in his opening speech.

Residents in northern Gaza, where a ground invasion began more than a month ago amid a relentless air offensive, also described harrowing conditions. Munir al-Bursh, director general of the Ministry of Health in Gaza, spoke to Al Jazeera from Kamal Adwan Hospital, which houses thousands of refugees seeking safety.

“Israeli occupation forces have besieged the facility from all sides. Patients and those who have sought refuge here are gripped by fear and overwhelmed with horror,” he said. “Israeli forces are attacking with the aim of forcibly removing everyone in the hospital. These are patients, victims and displaced civilians.”

The WHO recorded 203 attacks on health facilities from October 7 to November 28, a number it described as “unprecedented.”

Source : www.aljazeera.com

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