Israeli strikes intensify in Gaza’s second-largest city, blocking aid

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Israeli strikes rock the Gaza Strip’s second-largest city, pressing a ground offensive that has sent tens of thousands of Palestinians fleeing to the territory’s southernmost edge and prevented aid groups from delivering food, water, and other supplies.

Two months into the war, Israel’s offensive into southern Gaza was bringing to Khan Younis the same fierce urban fighting and intensified bombardment that obliterated much of Gaza City and the north of the territory in past weeks.

But in the south, the areas where Palestinians can seek safety are rapidly shrinking. Ahead of the assault, Israel urged residents to evacuate Khan Younis, the childhood home of two top Hamas leaders. But much of the city’s population remains in place, along with large numbers who were displaced from northern Gaza and are unable to leave or wary of fleeing to the disastrously overcrowded far south.

Cut off from outside aid, people in U.N.-run shelters in Khan Younis are fighting over food, said Nawraz Abu Libdeh, a shelter resident who has been displaced six times. “The hunger war has started,” he said. “This is the worst of all wars.”

The U.N. says some 1.87 million people — over 80% of the population of 2.3 million — have already fled their homes, many of them displaced multiple times. Almost the entire population is now crowded into southern and central Gaza, dependent on aid. International officials escalated warnings over the worsening humanitarian calamity.

“Palestinians in Gaza are living in utter, deepening horror,” U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk said at a news conference in Geneva. “My humanitarian colleagues have described the situation as apocalyptic.”

Israel’s campaign has killed more than 16,200 people in Gaza — most of them women and children — and wounded more than 42,000, the territory’s Health Ministry said late Tuesday. The agency has said many are also trapped under rubble. The ministry does not differentiate between civilian and combatant deaths.

 

Tens of thousands of people have fled from Khan Younis and other areas to Rafah, on Gaza’s southern border with Egypt, the U.N. said. Rafah, normally home to around 280,000 people, has already been packed with more than 470,000 who fled from other parts of Gaza.

On the other side of the border, Egypt has deployed thousands of troops and erected earthen barriers to prevent any mass influx of refugees. It says an influx would undermine its decades-old peace treaty with Israel, and it doubts Israel will let them back into Gaza.z

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