• Bombardment leaves 77 Palestinians dead; toll reaches 24,762
• Famine and disease loom as communications blackout in Gaza enters eighth day
GAZA CITY: Gunfire and air strikes shook Gaza’s Khan Yunis city on Friday as Israel pressed its southward push in the besieged territory.
The Palestinian Red Crescent reported intense artillery fire near the city’s Al Amal hospital, while the Gaza Strip’s health ministry said 77 people were killed in Israeli bombardment on Thursday night and early Friday morning.
At the Al Nasser hospital, a child with a bloodied face cried on a gurney. Ambulances arrived with the injured and the dead while in the darkened city beyond, automatic weapons fire sounded. An orange fireball flashed above rooftops.
Israel says it still expects the `military operation’ to continue for months.
But a divide over Gaza’s future with key ally the United States came into sharp focus after Washington again stressed the creation of a Palestinian state as the only way to guarantee Israel’s long-term security.
According to the United Nations, roughly 85 per cent of Gaza’s population had been displaced since the Oct 7 outbreak of hostilities.
Aid agencies say improved access is needed urgently as famine and disease loom, but a communications blackout, which continued on Friday for an eighth day, only added to the challenges.
Loss of connectivity “prevents people in Gaza from accessing life-saving information or calling for first responders and impedes other forms of humanitarian response,” said the UN humanitarian agency, OCHA.
Israel has vowed to destroy Hamas in the wake of the Oct 7 raids. Its relentless air and ground attacks have killed 24,762 Palestinians, around 70 per cent of them women and children.
With Israel’s military action moving farther south in the territory, which is about 40 kilometres long, some residents in northern Gaza have begun returning home to what remains of their neighbourhoods.
In Gaza City’s Rimal district, rubble has been ploughed to the sides of some dirt roads, but others are still clogged with pieces of collapsed buildings.
One modern mid-rise building was still standing, its windows shattered. Another tower was a burned-out shell.
“Everything is destroyed and the people are dying of hunger,” said Ibrahim Saada, a bandage on his left thumb. He said he lost his whole family.
Israel’s army claimed earlier this month the “Hamas command structure” in northern Gaza had been dismantled, but groups of fighters still confront troops there.
On Friday the military said ground troops, backed by air support, had killed several “armed militants” in the north. A Hamas statement reported combat in the north’s Jabalia refugee camp and nearby Gaza City area.
Washington provides Israel with billions of dollars in military aid, but the two allies disagree over Gaza’s future.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken this week used the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, to renew his call for a “pathway to a Palestinian state”, which Arab states also support.
Published in Dawn, January 20th, 2024