Thursday, February 22, 2024
HomenewsIsraeli forces move further into Gaza as Netanyahu declares ‘time for war’

Israeli forces move further into Gaza as Netanyahu declares ‘time for war’

Israeli military forces have advanced further into the besieged Gaza Strip and battled with Palestinian fighters near Gaza City, as the United Nations and medical staff expressed fears over air strikes hitting closer to hospitals.

Israeli soldiers and tanks carried out attacks from two sides of Gaza City in the northern section of the strip on Monday, with Palestinian armed groups saying that they repelled Israeli tanks to the east of the city.

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“Our duty today is [to] fight and fight,” the Palestinian Islamic Jihad armed group said in a statement, adding that it was not the right time to discuss a potential ceasefire.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also dismissed growing calls for a ceasefire, saying that such action would constitute “surrender to terrorism”.

Israeli forces said that they “killed dozens of terrorists who barricaded themselves in buildings and tunnels and attempted to attack the troops” and that three Israeli troops have been killed in Gaza.

Israel also announced that it had freed a female Israeli soldier being held captive by the Palestinian armed group Hamas during its ground raids, which have expanded in recent days alongside its continuing aerial assault.

More than 8,300 people, including more than 3,400 children, have been killed in the bombardment, according to Gaza officials, and UN officials and aid organisations have warned of a humanitarian catastrophe as Israel continues to impose a “complete siege” on the territory.

Numerous strikes lit up the north sky in northern Gaza on Monday. Colin Clarke, director of research at the Soufan Group, an intelligence and security consultancy, told Al Jazeera that the latest strikes could include large bombs meant to destroy a network of underground tunnels utilised by Hamas.

“This could be the use of bunker busters, where the Israelis are dropping bombs meant to penetrate what we call hard and deeply buried targets,” said Clarke, adding that it was impossible to be certain.

A small amount of aid has started to trickle into the beleaguered strip, with the Palestinian Red Crescent reporting that 26 trucks carrying aid entered through the Rafah crossing with Egypt on Monday.

No sign of a ceasefire

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emphatically rejected calls for a ceasefire, saying that “this is a time for war”.

The embattled prime minister also shot down questions about whether he will resign, as he faces widespread outrage from an Israeli public that holds his government responsible for a failure to stop an attack by Hamas on October 7 that killed more than 1,400 people, most of them civilians.

“The failure of the Israeli security apparatus, they [the Israeli public] will not forgive him for that,” Abdelhamid Siyam, professor of political science at Rutgers University, told Al Jazeera, adding that the public “believes in the army, but not in Netanyahu”.

Speaking in a televised address on Monday, Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said that Hamas has two options: “die fighting or to surrender without any conditions”.

The UN Security Council was holding an emergency meeting to deliberate on Israel’s ground raids, with Al Jazeera’s Gabriel Elizondo saying that the session would receive a briefing from Philippe Lazzarini, director of the UN agency on Palestinian refugees, UNRWA.

“This was a meeting where the UNSC members want to get a firsthand assessment of the situation in Gaza right now, and that is what we expect that they’ll be hearing,” said Elizondo.

US national security adviser Jake Sullivan met with Saudi Defence Minister Khalid bin Salman Al Saud in Washington, DC, on Monday to discuss regional tensions.

Russian president says US responsible for Middle East ‘chaos’

Russian President Vladimir Putin blamed the United States for the “deadly chaos” in the Middle East in a televised address, calling the US a beneficiary of “global instability”.

Putin also blamed Ukraine and Western nations for an outbreak of violence in the Russian republic of Dagestan on Sunday night, in which an angry crowd stormed an airport in search of passengers scheduled to arrive on a flight from Israel.

Russian forces have themselves been active in the Middle East for years, assisting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during the country’s bloody civil war and dispatching proxy forces such as the Wagner Group to Libya.

Turkey condemns targeting of hospital in Gaza

The Turkish foreign ministry has condemned “in the strongest terms” an Israeli strike on the Turkish-Palestinian Friendship hospital in Gaza, stating that it had shared the coordinates of the hospital with Israeli authorities in advance.

Sobhi Skeik, director of the Turkish-funded cancer treatment hospital, called the attack “the first direct hit on a medical facility”.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has also warned that it is unable to help resupply Al-Shifa and Al-Quds hospitals due to high risks.

“It’s a disaster on top of a disaster. Health needs are soaring and our ability to meet those needs is rapidly declining,” said Rick Brennan, the agency’s regional emergencies director.

Brennan called for a ceasefire and said that one third of Gaza’s hospitals and more than 70 percent of clinics are now non-functioning.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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