Strike kills 12 people mostly children in Gaza declared a

Strike kills 12 people, mostly children, in Gaza, declared a security zone by Israel – The Associated Press

RAFAH, Gaza Strip (AP) — An Israeli attack on Thursday leveled a house in an area of ​​southern Gaza that the military had declared a security zone, killing at least 12 people, almost all of them children, Palestinian hospital officials said Israeli troops pushed their attack into the nearby town of Khan Younis.

Israel's offensive focused on Khan Younis, where the military said it had uncovered tunnels used by Hamas and fought fighters from the militant group that attacked southern Israel on October 7.

Israel has vowed to continue its campaign in Gaza until Hamas is destroyed. Now an apparent Israeli attack that killed a top Hamas leader in Beirut has sparked new fears that the conflict could spread to other parts of the Middle East. Concerns about a major war are likely to be high on the agenda when U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken leaves late Thursday to visit Israel and other countries in the region.

The killing of Saleh Arouri sparked warnings of retaliation from Hamas's ally, the Lebanese Hezbollah militia. However, there was no immediate escalation in the daily exchange of rockets and shells between Hezbollah and the Israeli military across the border of both countries. Regional tensions worsened as a U.S. airstrike killed an Iran-backed militia leader in Iraq and Yemen's Houthi rebels continued attacks on ships in key Red Sea shipping lanes.

At the same time, Israel has stepped up its warnings of tougher military action against Hezbollah unless it withdraws its fighters from the border region, as demanded under a 2006 United Nations-brokered ceasefire. Israel says this is the only way for tens of thousands of Israelis evacuated from communities in the north to return.

In a meeting on Thursday with Amos Hochstein, a senior adviser to US President Joe Biden, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said there was a “short window” for diplomacy with Hezbollah. But he said Israel was committed to “bringing about a new reality in the north that will allow the safe return of our citizens.”

Nearly three months of Israeli bombardment and ground attacks have killed more than 22,400 people in Gaza, more than two-thirds of them women and children, according to the Health Ministry in Hamas-controlled territory. The department's count does not distinguish between civilians and combatants.

The campaign has forced more than 85% of Gaza's 2.3 million people from their homes. Israel's onslaught has leveled large swaths of northern Gaza, and ground attacks in the south have pushed most of the population into smaller parts of the territory. As attacks continue across the Gaza Strip, Palestinians say there is no safe place.

On Thursday, an attack hit a house in Mawasi, a small rural strip on Gaza's southern coast where the Israeli military said Palestinians were fleeing to escape the fighting zone. The explosion killed a man and his wife, seven of their children and three other children aged 5 to 14, according to a list of the dead who arrived at Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis.

There was no immediate response from the Israeli military.

Israeli troops entered Khan Younis in early December and have been fighting Hamas fighters there for weeks. The military said Thursday that its troops had uncovered a large tunnel several hundred meters (yards) long in a field next to a mosque.

Footage released by the military showed it blasting into rubble buildings that were hiding fighters who were reportedly firing on troops or containing Hamas infrastructure. Military officials did not provide further details.

Israel blames Hamas for the high number of civilian deaths, saying it operates in residential areas and has an extensive network of tunnels under civilian sites.

Gallant said Israel was seeking a “clear victory” over Hamas, which has ruled the territory since 2007. Around 1,200 people were killed and around 240 others were taken hostage in the attack from the Gaza Strip on southern Israel on October 7th.

Israel appears far from achieving its goal of dismantling Hamas and returning the estimated 129 hostages still held by the group. Gallant said several thousand Hamas fighters were still in northern Gaza, where Israeli troops have been fighting insurgents for more than two months and where entire neighborhoods have been razed.

U.N. deputy spokeswoman Florencia Soto Niño said officials from the U.N. humanitarian office and the World Health Organization visited Al-Amal Hospital in Khan Younis, which was reportedly hit by a deadly attack, on Thursday and witnessed significant incidents Damage has become.

The United Nations and its humanitarian partners have been unable to deliver aid to the northern Gaza Strip for three days, Soto Niño said.

The humanitarian office has warned that “a public health catastrophe is looming” in Gaza, she said.

More than 400,000 cases of infectious diseases have been reported since Oct. 7, Soto Niño said, including about 180,000 people with upper respiratory tract infections and over 136,000 cases of diarrhea – half of them in children under 5 years old.


Jeffery reported from Cairo.


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