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Israel launches 'wide scale' strikes on Gaza

Israel on Wednesday said it conducted “wide-scale” strikes against Hamas strongholds and again warned Palestinians in the Gaza Strip to flee south before its threatened invasion.

Among the targets of Israel’s latest barrage was a Hamas group it said was responsible for blockages that have prevented Palestinians in Gaza from moving to the southern part of the territory, the military’s chief spokesperson, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, told reporters. He said Hamas was using schools, hospitals and homes to hide, and added that people would be able to return home once the fighting ends.

While Hamas has said nothing about Israeli claims that it is blocking people from leaving the north, some Gaza residents say they are not heading south because the journey is too costly and dangerous and they fear being unable to return to their homes. Even as Israel’s military pushes people to flee south, it has continued to hit the area with airstrikes, according to Palestinian officials.

Gaza is sinking further into a humanitarian crisis. The World Health Organization said Wednesday that 12 of the 35 hospitals in the enclave were not functioning, and seven major hospitals were well over capacity, risking patient safety. European Union leaders were to meet in Brussels on Thursday and were set to ask for a “humanitarian pause” to facilitate aid deliveries.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres called for a cease-fire Tuesday. He also described Israel’s airstrikes in Gaza as “collective punishment” of Palestinians, prompting demands from some Israeli officials that he resign.

Israel, backed by the United States, has rebuffed calls for a broader cease-fire, arguing that at this point it would only benefit Hamas.

Here is what else to know:

— The potential for the war to spread remained. The Israeli military said Wednesday that an area near the Golan Heights was targeted by attacks that originated in Syria, and that it responded with artillery fire. Israel also said its soldiers had clashed with armed Palestinians overnight in the area of Jenin in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

— One of the two Hamas hostages released Monday, Yocheved Lifshitz, 85, told reporters in Tel Aviv, Israel, that she had “gone through hell” and that she was beaten and held in tunnels for 17 days.

— US intelligence officials said Tuesday they now had “high confidence” that the blast at al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City last week was the result of a Palestinian rocket that broke up midflight, and that no Israeli weapon was involved in the explosion.

A separate New York Times analysis found that a widely cited missile video, which has been used to make the case that Israel did not bomb the hospital, does not shed light on what happened.

(Published 25 October 2023, 13:16 IST)

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