US pressure builds as Israel expands assault to south of Gaza
Jitendra Joshi Deputy Political Editor
ISRAEL has expanded its offensive against Hamas to “every part” of the shattered Gaza Strip after a temporary truce came to an abrupt end last week, military commanders said today.
The Israel Defence Forces said they were pressing south, to where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians had fled the first round of bombardment in the north.
The fighting resumed after Israel accused Hamas of reneging on a hostage-prisoner swap deal, but prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is coming under mounting US pressure to limit the civilian death toll.
“The IDF is continuing and expanding the ground operation against the Hamas presence in every part of the Gaza Strip,” military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari told reporters in Tel Aviv. “The forces are coming face to face with terrorists and killing them.”
More than 15,000 people have been killed, according to Gaza’s health ministry, since a Hamas cross-border raid on southern Israel on October 7 in which 1,200 civilians were murdered and around 240 taken hostage. Israel says Hamas continues to hold 136 hostages. The war has displaced more than three-quarters of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million Palestinians, who are running out of safe places to go with Israel now pounding the southern city of Khan Younis.
“The (Israeli) occupation tells you to go to this area, then they bomb it,” Halima Abdel-Rahman, a widow and mother of four, said after fleeing to Khan Younis in October. “The reality is that no place is safe in Gaza. They kill people in the north. They kill people in the south.”
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Mr Netanyahu should be tried as a war criminal, but the prime minister insists Israel was locked in an existential tussle after the single worst attack on Jews since the Holocaust.
Ronen Bar, the head of Israel’s domestic security agency Shin Bet, was asked where Israel was prepared to fight Hamas. “In every place, in Gaza, in the West Bank, in Lebanon, in Turkey, in Qatar, everywhere,” he said in an audio recording.
White House national security council spokesman John Kirby said the US was working “hour by hour” for a resumption of ceasefire talks between Israel and Hamas.
Evening Standard Limited