Gaza Crisis Intensifies: Civilians Trapped Amidst Heavy Bombardment

The Gaza conflict escalates with Israel bombarding central and southern areas, killing at least 28 Palestinians. U.S.-backed mediators struggle to reconcile demands to halt hostilities and secure aid flow. In Rafah, tank-led forces advance, trapping residents. Gaza's high civilian toll sparks accusations of disproportionate force. Peace remains distant.

Reuters | Updated: 07-06-2024 17:49 IST | Created: 07-06-2024 17:49 IST
Gaza Crisis Intensifies: Civilians Trapped Amidst Heavy Bombardment
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With a renewed ceasefire push in the eight-month-old Gaza war stalled, Israel bombarded central and southern areas again on Friday, killing at least 28 Palestinians, and tank forces advanced to the western edges of Rafah. U.S.-backed Qatari and Egyptian mediators have tried again this week to reconcile clashing demands preventing a halt to the hostilities, a release of Israeli hostages and Palestinians jailed in Israel, and an untrammelled flow of aid into Gaza to alleviate a humanitarian disaster. But sources close to the talks said there were still no signs of a breakthrough.

A month after rumbling into Rafah in what Israel said was an assault to wipe out Hamas' last intact combat units, tank-led forces have advanced to the southwest fringes of the city that skirts the Gaza Strip's border with Egypt, residents said. They said tanks were stationed in the al-Izba district near the Mediterranean coast while snipers had commandeered some buildings and high ground, trapping people in their homes. They said Israel machinegun fire had made it too dangerous to go out.

Gaza health officials said two Palestinians had been killed and several wounded in western Rafah from tank shelling there. In central Gaza, Palestinians medics said at least 15 people died overnight in Israeli bombardments. "I think the occupation forces are trying to reach the beach area of Rafah. The raids and the bombing overnight were tactical, they entered under heavy fire and then retreated," one Palestinian resident told Reuters via a chat app.

In the larger city of Khan Younis just to the north of Rafah, an Israeli airstrike on a house killed eight people and wounded several, including children, medics said. In north Gaza, three Palestinians were killed in an Israeli airstrike on a Gaza City school building that was sheltering displaced families, rescue workers said.

Hamas said on Friday militants in the central city of Deir al-Balah shelled a house where Israeli troops were barricaded, killing some and wounding others. It said helicopters were seen landing to extricate the stricken Israeli unit. The Israeli military focused on central Gaza in its latest update, saying it had killed "dozens" of militants and destroyed more militant infrastructure in continuing operations in the al-Bureij refugee camp and nearby city of Deir al-Balah.

Israel's military blames Hamas for Gaza's high civilian death toll, accusing it of operating within densely populated neighbourhoods, schools and hospitals as cover, something it denies. U.N. and humanitarian officials accuse Israel of using disproportionate force in the war, which it denies. 'DEATH CIRCLE'

On Thursday, Israel hit an al-Nuseirat school building with what it said was a targeted airstrike on up to 30 militant combatants inside, and a Hamas official said 40 people were killed including women and children sheltering at the U.N. site. "It's just another horrific example of the price that civilians are paying, that Palestinian men, women and children who are just trying to survive, who are being forced to move around in sort of a death circle around Gaza, trying to find safety, are paying," U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said.

Israel has ruled out peace until Hamas is eradicated, and much of Gaza lies in ruins, but Hamas has proven resilient, with militants resurfacing to fight in areas where Israeli forces had previously declared to have defeated them and pulled back. Hamas precipitated the war when militants stormed from Israeli-blockaded Gaza into southern Israel in a lightning strike last Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and taking over 250 hostages back to the enclave, according to Israeli tallies.

Israel's invasion and bombardment of Gaza since then has killed at least 36,731 people, including 77 in the past 24 hours, Gaza's health ministry said in an update on Friday. Thousands more are feared buried dead under rubble, with most of the 2.3 million population displaced. Since a brief week-long truce in November, repeated attempts to arrange a ceasefire have failed, with Hamas insisting on a permanent end to the war and full Israeli withdrawal from Gaza.

Israel says it is prepared to discuss only temporary pauses in the hostilities until the Islamist militant group, which has ruled the narrow, impoverished enclave since 2007, is wiped out and Gaza poses no more security threat. The latest round of indirect talks began on Wednesday when CIA Director William Burns met senior officials from Qatar and Egypt in Doha to discuss a proposal U.S. President Joe Biden publicly endorsed last week. Biden described the three-phase plan as an Israeli initiative.

Qatar said on Thursday Hamas has not yet handed mediators its response to the latest proposal and was still studying it. Two Egyptian security sources said ceasefire mediators were soldiering on but without inklings of a breakthrough.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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