Palestinians crowd into ever-shrinking areas in Gaza as Israel’s war against Hamas enters 3rd month
RAFAH, Gaza Strip (AP) — Desperate Palestinians fleeing Israel’s expanding ground offensive crowded into an ever-shrinking area of the Gaza Strip as the Israel-Hamas war entered its third month Friday. The United Nations (UN) warned that its aid operation is “in tatters” because no place in the besieged enclave is safe.
The Israeli army said that over the past day its forces had struck about 450 targets in the tiny, densely populated Gaza Strip, signalling the continued intensity of a campaign that has already led to widespread civilian casualties and mass displacements.
Israel also dropped leaflets over parts of Gaza with a biblical warning to Hamas leaders that it would take “a life for a life, an eye for an eye.” A day after troops rounded up hundreds of Palestinians for questioning about suspected ties to Hamas, an Israeli government spokesman suggested that practice would continue.
The first images of such roundups emerged Thursday from the northern town of Beit Lahiya, showing dozens of men kneeling or sitting in the streets, stripped down to their underwear, their hands bound behind their backs and some with their heads bowed.
Israel has vowed to crush the military capabilities of Hamas, which rules Gaza, and remove it from power following the group’s October 7 attack that sparked the war.
Israel’s air and ground campaign initially focused on the northern half of Gaza, leading hundreds of thousands of residents to flee south. Intense battles continued in parts of the north in recent days.
“Airstrikes and random artillery shelling have continued intensely since last night until this morning,” said Hassan Al Najjar, a journalist speaking by phone from northern Gaza.
UN monitors said Israeli troops reportedly detained men and boys from the age of 15 in a school-turned-shelter in the town of Beit Lahiya, in the north.
Eylon Levy, an Israeli government spokesman, said Friday that authorities were questioning the detainees — who he said were picked up in Hamas strongholds — to determine whether they were members of the militant group.
Those detained were “military-aged men who were discovered in areas that civilians were supposed to have evacuated weeks ago,” Levy said, indicating there would be more such sweeps going forward as troops move from north to south.
In central Gaza, leaflets were dropped on the refugee camps of Nuseirat and Maghazi with a message for Hamas officials.
“To Hamas leaders: A life for a life, an eye for an eye and whoever started is to blame. If you punish, then punish with the like of that wherewith you were afflicted,” the leaflet read, using verses from the Muslim holy book, the Quran, that are similar to a warning in the Old Testament.
There has also been a dramatic surge in deadly military raids and an increase in restrictions on Palestinian residents in the occupied West Bank since the start of the war.
Israeli forces stormed into a refugee camp in the West Bank on Friday to arrest suspected Palestinian militants, unleashing fighting with local gunmen in which six Palestinians were killed, health officials said. The Israeli military did not respond to a request for comment on the operation.