Israel expands offensive into southern Gaza as UN says civilians must be protected

Israeli troops and tanks gather near the border with the Gaza Strip on December 3, 2023, following renewed fighting between Israel and Hamas militants, as clashes continue between Israel and Hamas militants on December 3, 2023.

Jack Guez | AFP | Getty Images

The Israeli military is expanding its offensive into southern Gaza, where for much of the past two months it has told Palestinian civilians to flee for their own safety.

The Israel Defense Forces stepped up shelling of Khan Younis, the besieged enclave’s second-largest city, as the United Nations and Israel’s top ally, the US, stressed the protection of civilians.

At least 50 people were killed on Tuesday in Israeli strikes in Khan Younis in the south and the Nuseirat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip, according to the Palestinian Wafa news agency. The broadcast and other reporters on the ground reported streams of ambulances rushing people to local hospitals.

It came later UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged to prevent further harm to civilians.

“The Secretary-General is extremely concerned by the resumption of hostilities between Israel and Hamas… For the people ordered to leave, there is nowhere safe to go and very little to survive,” said UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric. statement.

US national security adviser Jake Sullivan, speaking to the press, said Israel “has indicated that there are areas where there will be no-strike zones, and in those zones we expect Israel to follow no-strike.”

State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said it was “too early to make a definitive assessment … I have seen no evidence that civilians are being deliberately targeted,” but added: “We believe that too many civilians have been killed.”

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He blamed the Palestinian militant group Hamas – whose terror attack in southern Israel on October 7 killed around 1,200 people and sparked the current war – for integrating itself into Gaza’s urban infrastructure.

Israel’s offensive has killed more than 15,800 people in the Gaza Strip, according to Palestinian health authorities.

Of the approximately 240 hostages taken in Gaza by Hamas on October 7, the IDF estimates that 137 hostages remain there, under unknown conditions. It follows a hostage exchange to free Palestinian prisoners that took place during a week-long ceasefire in late November.

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