Israel pounds Gaza as fears grow of widening war

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Israel pummelled southern Gaza on Tuesday, killing dozens, even as authorities announced the winding down of the intense phase of the war that has inflamed tensions across the Middle East.

The government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has come under mounting international pressure to end its offensive in Gaza launched in response to Hamas’s unprecedented Oct. 7 attacks.

But fears are mounting the war could be widening, with Iran and its proxies stepping up attacks across the region in solidarity with Hamas, the Islamist movement that rules the Palestinian territory.

Overnight, a wave of Israeli strikes killed at least 78 people in the Gaza Strip, Hamas’s press office said. 

On Tuesday morning, the army said a barrage of 50 rockets was fired toward Netivot in southern Israel, without causing any casualties. Hamas’s armed wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, claimed responsibility for the attack..

More than 24,000 Palestinians, around 70 percent of them women, young children and adolescents, have been killed in Gaza in Israeli bombardments and ground operations since Oct. 7, according to the Hamas government’s health ministry.

Khan Yunis has been the focus of Israeli military operations since the army said on Jan. 6 that it had dismantled Hamas’s military structures in the north and was shifting its focus to the south.

Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant had told a news conference on Monday that intense operations would soon be winding down in south Gaza.

“In southern Gaza we will reach this achievement and it will end soon, and in both places, the moment will come when we will move to the next phase,” he said, without specifying a time frame.

The health ministry said on Tuesday that the war had claimed the lives of at least 24,285 people in the Palestinian territory.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday reiterated calls for a stop to the fighting.

 

Yemen’s Huthi rebels, who say they act in solidarity with Gaza, claimed a missile strike on a U.S.-owned cargo ship on Monday, just days after the United States and Britain bombed scores of targets inside the country in response to repeated attacks on shipping in the Red Sea.

Overnight, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said it carried out a missile attack that destroyed “the Zionist regime’s (Israel) spy headquarters in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.

The IRGC said it also struck a “gathering of anti-Iranian terrorist groups” in Iraq, and hit a number of ISIL group targets in Syria.

Iraq condemned the strikes as an “attack on its sovereignty” and said authorities “will take all legal steps”, including “lodging a complaint with the U.N. Security Council”, the foreign ministry said.

It also summoned Iran’s envoy in Baghdad and recalled its ambassador from Tehran for consultations. Iran defended the strikes, saying they were a “targeted operation” and “just punishment” against those who breach the Islamic republic’s security.

The United Nations says the Israel-Hamas war has displaced roughly 85 percent of Gaza’s 2.4 million population, many of whom have been forced to crowd into shelters and struggle to get food, water, fuel and medical care.

As temperatures plunge, families living in makeshift tents in Rafah have resorted to burning plastic to ward off the chill, despite the noxious fumes.

 

The Al-Qassam Brigades released a video showing a woman hostage, speaking under duress, revealing that two men she was held with had been killed in captivity.

In a statement released with the video, it blamed “the Zionist army’s bombing” for the deaths of the hostages.

 

Gaza violence, Houthis,

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