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Bloody New Phase of War in Ga 12/05 06:33

   Israel intensified its bombardment in and around Gaza's second-largest city 
early Tuesday, sending ambulances and private cars racing into a local hospital 
carrying people wounded in a bloody new phase of the war.

   KHAN YOUNIS, Gaza Strip (AP) -- Israel intensified its bombardment in and 
around Gaza's second-largest city early Tuesday, sending ambulances and private 
cars racing into a local hospital carrying people wounded in a bloody new phase 
of the war.

   Under U.S. pressure to prevent further mass casualties, Israel says it is 
being more precise as it widens its offensive into southern Gaza after 
obliterating much of the north -- but Palestinians say there are no areas where 
they feel safe, and many fear that if they leave their homes they will never be 
allowed to return.

   Aerial bombardment and the ground offensive have already driven 
three-fourths of the territory's 2.3 million people from their homes -- and new 
orders to evacuate areas around Khan Younis are squeezing people into 
ever-smaller areas of the already tiny coastal strip.

   At the Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, ambulances brought dozens of wounded 
people in. At one point, a car pulled up and a man emerged carrying a young boy 
in a bloody shirt, whose hand had been blown off.

   "What's happening here is unimaginable," said Hamza al-Bursh, who lives in 
the neighborhood of Maan, one of several in and around the city where Israel 
has ordered civilians to leave. "They strike indiscriminately."

   Residents said troops had advanced following heavy airstrikes to Bani 
Suheila, a town just east of Khan Younis. Halima Abdel-Rahman, who fled to the 
town earlier in the war from her home in the north, said they could hear 
explosions through the night.

   "They are very close," she said. "It's the same scenario we saw in the 

   Satellite photos from Sunday showed around 150 Israeli tanks, armored 
personnel carriers and other vehicles just under 6 kilometers (4 miles) north 
of the heart of the city.


   Israel ordered the full-scale evacuation of northern Gaza in the early days 
of the war and has barred people who left from returning. In the south, it has 
ordered people out of nearly two dozen neighborhoods in and around Khan Younis. 
That further reduced the area where civilians can seek refuge in central and 
southern Gaza by more than a quarter.

   "Nowhere is safe in Gaza, and there is nowhere left to go," Lynn Hastings, 
the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories, said Monday. 
"The conditions required to deliver aid to the people of Gaza do not exist. If 
possible, an even more hellish scenario is about to unfold."

   Israel says it must dismantle Hamas' extensive military infrastructure and 
remove it from power in order to prevent a repeat of the Oct. 7 attack that 
ignited the war. The surprise assault through the border fence saw Hamas and 
other Palestinian militants kill about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and 
capture some 240 men, women and children.

   The military says it makes every effort to spare civilians and accuses Hamas 
of using them as human shields as the militants fight in dense residential 
areas, where they have labyrinths of tunnels, bunkers, rocket launchers and 
sniper nests.

   Hamas is deeply rooted in Palestinian society, and its determination to end 
decades of open-ended Israeli military rule over millions of Palestinians is 
shared by the vast majority, even those opposed to its ideology and its attacks 
on Israeli civilians. That will complicate any effort to eliminate Hamas 
without causing massive casualties and further displacement.

   Even after weeks of unrelenting bombardment, Hamas' top leader in Gaza, 
Yehya Sinwar, was able to conduct complex cease-fire negotiations and 
orchestrate the release of more than 100 Israeli and foreign hostages in 
exchange for 240 Palestinian prisoners last week. Palestinian militants have 
also kept up their rocket fire into Israel, both before and after the truce.


   The fighting has meanwhile brought unprecedented death and destruction to 
the coastal strip.

   The Health Ministry in Gaza said the death toll in the territory since Oct. 
7 has surpassed 15,890 people -- 70% of them women and children -- with more 
than 42,000 wounded. The ministry does not differentiate between civilian and 
combatant deaths. It says hundreds have been killed or wounded since the 
cease-fire's end, and many still are trapped under rubble.

   An Israeli army official provided a similar figure for the death toll in 
Gaza on Monday, after weeks in which Israeli officials had cast doubt on the 
ministry's count. The official said at least 15,000 people have been killed, 
including 5,000 militants, without saying how the military arrived at its 
figures. The military says 86 of its soldiers have been killed in the Gaza 

   White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Monday that it was 
too soon to pass judgment on Israeli operations, but that it was unusual for a 
modern military to identify precise areas of expected ground maneuvers and ask 
people to move out, as Israel has done in Khan Younis.

   "These are the kinds of steps that we have asked them to undertake," he said.

   Leaflets dropped by the Israeli military over Khan Younis in recent days 
warn people to head farther south toward the border with Egypt, but they are 
unable to leave Gaza, as both Israel and neighboring Egypt have refused to 
accept any refugees.

   The area that Israel ordered evacuated was home to some 117,000 people, and 
now it also houses more than 50,000 people displaced from the north, living in 
21 shelters, the U.N. said. It was not known how many were fleeing.

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