A wounded woman is evacuated on a stretcher from an area hit by Israeli airstrikes
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Key Points
  • The areas of refuge in Gaza are rapidly shrinking.
  • Israel says it must wipe out Hamas and is doing everything possible to get civilians out of harm’s way.
  • The United Nations Palestinian Refugee Agency says 85 per cent of Gaza’s population had been displaced.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in his strongest public criticism of Israel’s conduct of the war on Hamas in south Gaza, said there was a gap between the government’s declared intentions to protect civilians and the casualties.
“As we stand here almost a week into this campaign into the south … it remains imperative that Israel put a premium on civilian protection,” Blinken said at a press conference following a meeting with British Foreign Secretary David Cameron in Washington on Thursday.
“And there does remain a gap between … the intent to protect civilians and the actual results that we’re seeing on the ground,” Blinken said.

Israel says it must wipe out the Hamas militant group after its attack on Israel two months ago and says it is doing everything possible to get civilians out of harm’s way, including warnings about military operations.

A wounded woman is evacuated on a stretcher from an area hit by Israeli airstrikes

Khan Younis refugee camp is among the residences hit by Israeli airstrikes in southern Gaza. Source: AAP / Mohammed Dahman/AP

US President Joe Biden spoke separately by phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jordan’s King Abdullah on Thursday.

Biden “emphasized the critical need to protect civilians and to separate the civilian population from Hamas including through corridors that allow people to move safely from defined areas of hostilities,” the White House said.
Israel has bombarded Gaza since Hamas’ 7 October attack in which more than 1,200 people were killed, according to the Israeli government, and over 200 hostages taken.

More than 17,800 people have been killed in Gaza since 7 October, according to the health ministry in Hamas-controlled Gaza.

Israel releases footage of stripped detainees

Israeli TV appeared to show Thursday scores of stripped Palestinian men sitting on a Gaza street in military custody, with a London-based news outlet saying one of its journalists was among them.

The clips had already circulated widely on social media, with a preliminary AFP Factcheck review suggesting the scene was filmed in Beit Lahia in the north of the Gaza Strip, though geolocating the footage precisely was difficult.
One clip showed the arm of a soldier in the foreground, suggesting it was filmed by a member of the military.

In another clip, a group of blindfolded men are seen sitting with their hands tied behind their backs as Israeli soldiers watch them. AFP was unable to verify where the men were being held.

Israeli military spokesman Daniel Hagari, when asked about these images, said at a briefing that “terrorists were surrendering”.

“They hide underground and come out and we fight them… We investigate and check who is connected to Hamas and who is not,” Hagari said, without offering other details regarding the clips.

Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, a London-based, Arabic-language news outlet, said on X, formerly Twitter, that among those detained was its reporter Diaa Al-Kahlout, as well as members of his family.

A report in its English-language sister publication The New Arab said the Israeli military had arrested Al-Kahlout “along with his brothers, relatives, and other civilians, from the market street in Beit Lahia”.

Kerem Shalom border crossing opened

In a development that should help smooth the way for more humanitarian aid to reach besieged Gazans short of basic needs, Israel agreed at the request of the United States to open the for the screening and inspection of trucks and their cargo, a U.S. official said on Thursday.

Egypt, along with the United Nations, has been lobbying Israel to speed up an inspection process, which requires the vehicles to drive to Egypt’s border with Israel before looping back to Rafah. The number of trucks crossing daily has dropped to fewer than 100, from nearly 200 during a 24 November – 1 December truce, according to the United Nations.

Israel is battling Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip’s biggest cities and says it has attacked dozens of targets, leaving 350 Palestinians dead and the rest struggling to survive in rapidly shrinking areas of refuge.
Gazans crammed into Rafah on the southern border with Egypt, heeding Israeli leaflets and messages saying that they would be safe in the city after successive warnings to head south.

But more than 20 people were killed in apartments there sheltering displaced civilians from the north, said Eyad al-Hobi, a relative of some of those killed.

“All apartments in the building suffered serious damage,” he said as people brought out two apparently lifeless children.
Israel said militants had fired at least one rocket from Rafah and 12 from the desolate area of Al Mawasi on Gaza’s southern Mediterranean coast where it has also advised displaced people to gather, leaving the status of the areas unclear.
In southern Gaza’s largest city, Khan Younis, Israel said, including two militants who emerged firing from a tunnel.
People gather in front of a destroyed building.

The increased military activities by Israel in southern Gaza have prompted local rescue operations. Source: Getty, Supplied / YOUSSEF ALZANOUN

The United Nations Palestinian Refugee Agency (UNRWA) said 1.9 million people – 85 per cent of Gaza’s population – had been displaced and its shelters were four times over capacity.

UN refugee chief Filippo Grandi said pressure was growing in the south of the enclave near Egypt.
“People are piling up in the little sliver of land between Khan Younis and the Rafah border,” he told Reuters.
Egypt said it would not allow Gazans to be pushed across its border.

Diaa Rashwan, head of the State Information Service, added that Egypt believed Israel was also trying to force Palestinians in the West Bank towards Jordan.

Hamas is a Palestinian military and political group, which has gained power in the Gaza Strip since winning legislative elections there in 2006. Its stated aim is to establish a Palestinian state, while refusing to recognise Israel’s right to exist.
Hamas, in its entirety, is designated as a terrorist organisation by countries including Australia, Canada, the UK and the US. New Zealand and Paraguay list only its military wing as a terrorist group. In 2018, the United Nations General Assembly voted against a resolution condemning Hamas in its entirety as a terrorist organisation.

Israel says it must wipe out Hamas and is doing everything possible to get civilians out of harm’s way.

A senior Hamas official told Reuters that mediators were still exploring opportunities for a truce and reiterated its demand that Israel cease its attacks.
UN aid chief Martin Griffiths said there were promising signs that the Kerem Shalom crossing in Israel could soon be opened to allow more humanitarian aid into Gaza.

A guided-missile attack from Lebanon killed a 60-year-old farmer in northern Israel, Israel’s public broadcaster Kan said, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that Beirut would be turned “into Gaza” if Hezbollah started an all-out war.

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