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An explosion during Israeli air strikes in Gaza, as seen from southern Israel, January 17 2024. Picture: TYRONE SIU/REUTERS
An explosion during Israeli air strikes in Gaza, as seen from southern Israel, January 17 2024. Picture: TYRONE SIU/REUTERS

Gaza border — Israel continued its assault on Khan Younis in southern Gaza on Wednesday, sending tanks westwards and prompting accusations from Jordan that its field hospital in the city had been badly damaged by nearby shelling.

The Jordanian army said it held Israel responsible for a “flagrant breach of international law” in what it said was the damage to the facility as a result of Israeli shelling in the vicinity. The Israeli military had no immediate comment.

People in and around another hospital, Nasser, fled as tanks approached the district overnight following an Israeli army statement that it had come under fire from the area.

Palestinian health officials said seven people were killed by Israeli air strikes that damaged homes near the hospital, one of only a third of Gaza’s hospitals still partially operational.

Israeli government spokesperson Eylon Levy said extra field hospitals were expected to be up and running in the coming days.

“These have of course been necessitated by Hamas’ strategic militarisation of Gaza’s existing hospitals,” he said, adding this showed that Hamas militants were the ones breaching international law. Hamas denies using hospitals for cover.

Explosions from shelling and air strikes sounded further west in Khan Younis as the Israeli tanks moved on, with lines of thick black smoke rising from bomb sites.

Israel said it had killed six Palestinian fighters, including the southern district Hamas officer in charge of interrogating suspected spies.

The military said in a statement summarising its latest operations that the killing of counterespionage officer Bilal Nofal “significantly impacts the terrorist organisation's capacity to develop and enhance its capabilities”.

Fighting raged in densely populated Jabalia in northern Gaza on Wednesday, a day after Israeli tanks stormed back into parts of the north they had left last week.

Israel had announced in early January it was scaling back operations in northern Gaza as part of what it said would be a more targeted approach in its war against Hamas after operations that flattened entire residential districts.

At least $15bn will be needed just to rebuild houses in Gaza, the head of the Palestine Investment Fund, Mohammed Mustafa, told the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Wednesday, without taking into account the extensive damage to basic infrastructure and hospitals.

Israel’s military campaign has left the entire population of Gaza facing crisis levels of hunger and at growing risk from disease as supplies run low, aid agencies say.

“If the war in Gaza continues, more people are likely to die of hunger or famine than war,” Mustafa said. 

Aid destined for Palestinian residents and Israeli hostages held in Gaza arrived in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula on Wednesday under a deal brokered by France and Qatar, Egypt and Red Crescent officials said.

Communications were down across Gaza on Wednesday for a sixth day, leaving its Palestinian inhabitants, most of whom have been forced to flee several times, unable to receive warnings on social media from the movement of Israeli forces.

Hostages 

Palestinian health officials said 163 Gazans had been reported killed over the past 24 hours, taking the death toll to 24,448 in Israel’s war on Gaza, now in its fourth month.

Israel reported two more soldiers killed, taking the toll since it began ground operations in Gaza to 193.

Israel says it has killed 9,000 Hamas militants and has vowed to “eliminate” the enclave’s Hamas rulers after gunmen stormed into southern Israel, killing 1,200 people, according to Israeli tallies. On Wednesday, Israel adjusted the number of people it says were taken hostage on October 7 to 253 from 240.

About half of the hostages were released in an October truce during which some Palestinian prisoners were also freed.

Israel has said the only way to secure the release of the remaining hostages is military pressure on Hamas, which is sworn to Israel's destruction.

UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres said in Davos on Wednesday that parties to the war in Gaza were “trampling” on international law and reiterated calls for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.

The war has had serious international repercussions, including strikes on shipping in the Red Sea by the Iran-aligned Houthis who control much of Yemen. The Houthis say the attacks, which have disrupted global trade flows, are intended to demonstrate solidarity with the Palestinians.

On Wednesday they said the strikes would continue despite the Biden administration putting the militia back on its list of terrorist groups.

Israel has also conducted repeated raids of the occupied West Bank, where it said air strikes on cars in Nablus and Tulkarm had killed nine Palestinians it described as gunmen who had carried out or were planning imminent attacks.

The Palestinian health ministry said 360 people have been killed and thousands arrested in raids Israel says are aimed at rooting out militants there.

Reuters 

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