Fierce fighting in Gaza, as Hamas says Israel kills 30 in camp bombing
04 November 2023
Gaza Strip (Palestinian Territories) (AFP) -
Israel pressed its war to crush Hamas on Sunday nearly a month after the worst attack in the country's history, as the Palestinian group said strikes on a central Gaza refugee camp killed dozens.
Fighting continues to rage in densely populated Gaza, despite calls for a ceasefire from Arab countries and desperate civilians after 30 days of war.
Since a shock Hamas attack on October 7, which Israeli officials say has killed 1,400 people, mostly civilians, Israel has bombarded the besieged Gaza Strip.
The health ministry in Gaza, which is run by Hamas, says more than 9,480 Gazans, mostly women and children, have been killed in Israeli strikes and the intensifying ground campaign.
Since Israel sent troops into the narrow Palestinian territory late last month, 'over 2,500 terror targets have been struck' by 'ground, air and naval forces', the army said on Sunday.
In a statement, it said ground soldiers were engaged in 'close-quarters combat' as Israeli jets were striking targets including a 'Hamas military compound' at an undisclosed location overnight.
In the latest onslaught in Gaza, the Hamas-run health ministry said an Israeli bombing on the Al-Maghazi refugee camp late Saturday killed 30 people, with an eyewitness reporting children dead and homes smashed.
'An Israeli air strike targeted my neighbours' house in Al-Maghazi camp, my house next door partially collapsed,' said Mohammed Alaloul, 37, a journalist working for the Turkish Anadolu Agency.
Alaloul told AFP his 13-year-old son, Ahmed, and his four-year-old son, Qais, were killed in the bombing, along with his brother. His wife, mother, and two other children were injured.
A military spokesperson said they were looking into whether their forces had been operating in the area at the time of the bombing.
- Evacuations halted -
More than 240 Israeli and foreign hostages were abducted by Hamas during the October 7 attack, officials say, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rebuffed proposals of a truce until the Islamist group releases them all.
Israel on Thursday said it had struck 12,000 targets across Gaza during the war, one of the fiercest bombing campaigns in recent memory.
Hamas said in a statement posted on Telegram that Israel had 'directly' bombed civilian homes, adding that most of the dead were women and children.
As the war ground into its fifth week, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to continue his Middle East tour Sunday with a visit to Turkey, where Ankara has hardened its tone against Israel and its Western supporters with the death toll in Gaza surging.
Blinken faced a rising tide of anger in meetings with Arab foreign ministers in Jordan on Saturday, where he reaffirmed US support for 'humanitarian pauses' to ensure desperate civilians get help, a day after Netanyahu gave the idea short shrift.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, whose country has been acting as the sole conduit for foreigners to escape the Gaza Strip and for aid to get in, called for an 'immediate and comprehensive ceasefire'.
The call for a ceasefire was echoed by thousands of protesters on Saturday marching in the US capital in solidarity with Palestinians, one of multiple similar rallies held from Indonesia to Iran, as well as in European cities.
Hamas said late Saturday the evacuation of dual nationals and foreigners from Gaza was being suspended until Israel lets some wounded Palestinians reach Rafah so they can cross the border for hospital treatment in Egypt.
A senior White House official said Hamas had tried to use a US-brokered deal opening the Egyptian border crossing to get its cadres out.
'That was just unacceptable to Egypt, to us, to Israel,' the official said.
- 'Written off' Netanyahu -
Palestinian ally Turkey on Saturday said it was recalling its ambassador to Israel and breaking off contacts with Netanyahu in protest at the bloodshed in Gaza.
Turkey had been mending torn relations with Israel until last month's start of the Israel-Hamas war.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters he held Netanyahu personally responsible for the growing civilian death toll in Gaza.
'Netanyahu is no longer someone we can talk to. We have written him off,' Turkish media quoted Erdogan as saying.
Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Lior Haiat said the move was 'another step by the Turkish president that sides with the Hamas terrorist organisation'.
Israeli chief of staff Lieutenant General Herzi Halevi visited troops inside Gaza on Saturday after they completed an encirclement of Gaza City, which lies to the north of the Al-Maghazi camp hit overnight Saturday.
The Israeli military describes Gaza City as 'the centre of the Hamas terror organisation', while the US special envoy for aid assistance, David Satterfield, said between 350,000 and 400,000 civilians remained in the city and adjacent areas.
In the north of Israel, the army and Lebanon's powerful Hezbollah movement traded fire across the border on Saturday, with each claiming to have hit the other's positions along the frontier.
The skirmishes came a day after Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah warned that the war between Israel and Hamas could draw in other forces in a regional conflict.
Blinken on Saturday held talks in Amman with his counterparts from Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, all key players in the crisis.
In his talks with the US top diplomat, King Abdullah II of Jordan underlined that 'the only way to end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is to work towards a political horizon to achieve a just and comprehensive peace based on the two-state solution'.
The US administration has said that it too backs a Palestinian state alongside Israel, but Netanyahu's hard-right government is implacably opposed.