Israel battles militants in Gaza’s main cities, with civilians still stranded near front lines

by Chloe Baker
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Israeli-Gaza conflict

Israeli forces continue their intense engagement with Palestinian militants in Gaza’s major urban areas, namely Gaza City and Khan Younis, even as civilians remain trapped near the active conflict zones. The Israeli military’s campaign, supported steadfastly by the United States both diplomatically and militarily, aims to overthrow Hamas, dismantle its military infrastructure, and secure the release of numerous hostages taken by Palestinian militants during a surprise incursion into Israel on October 7, which sparked the current conflict.

This prolonged conflict has had devastating consequences for Palestinian civilians, with a significant number of deaths and the displacement of a vast majority of Gaza’s 2.3 million inhabitants. The southern city of Khan Younis has seen new offensives by Israeli ground forces, and fierce battles continue in parts of Gaza City and the densely populated Jabaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza.

The situation for civilians remains dire, with shortages of food, water, and basic necessities due to restricted aid access. There are growing concerns about potential permanent displacement of Palestinians, reminiscent of the 1948 mass exodus during the formation of Israel. The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned of a potential breakdown in public order, epidemic diseases, and increased pressure for mass movement of people towards Egypt.

Israeli government spokesperson Eylon Levy has denied intentions of mass displacement from Gaza, but the possibility has been discussed by other Israeli officials, causing alarm among Arab countries, including Egypt, which are reluctant to accept refugees. With entire neighborhoods in northern Gaza demolished, the future of Palestinian residents’ return remains uncertain. The conflict’s expansion to the south has exacerbated the situation, hindering aid delivery and forcing more people to flee towards Rafah and the Egyptian border.

Israel maintains that it aims to avoid civilian casualties, attributing these to Hamas’s tactics of engaging in warfare in densely populated areas and positioning military assets near civilian infrastructures. Recent Israeli military actions have targeted militant positions, but these have also resulted in civilian casualties and destruction.

In the south, where Israel has advised civilians to flee, conditions are harsh, with overcrowded shelters and exposure to the elements leading to health issues. Medical organizations report a surge in respiratory infections and gastrointestinal diseases, especially among children.

As the war enters its third month, the Palestinian death toll has exceeded 17,900, predominantly women and children, according to the Hamas-controlled Health Ministry in Gaza. The Israeli side has seen over 1,200 fatalities, mainly civilians during the initial attack. Hamas continues to hold 117 hostages and the remains of 20 individuals, with hopes of exchanging them for Palestinians imprisoned by Israel.

Over 100 Israeli soldiers have been reported dead since the ground offensive began, and Palestinian militants persist in launching rockets towards Israel, most of which have been intercepted or have landed harmlessly in unpopulated areas.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Israeli-Gaza conflict

What is the current state of the Israeli forces’ engagement in Gaza?

Israeli forces are intensely battling Palestinian militants in Gaza’s major urban areas, specifically Gaza City and Khan Younis. Civilians remain trapped near these conflict zones, facing severe hardships due to the ongoing military actions.

What are Israel’s objectives in this conflict?

Israel’s objectives include overthrowing Hamas, dismantling its military infrastructure, and securing the release of numerous hostages taken by Palestinian militants during the initial surprise attack into Israel on October 7, which ignited the current conflict.

What has been the impact of the conflict on Palestinian civilians?

The conflict has led to thousands of Palestinian civilian deaths and the displacement of nearly 85% of Gaza’s 2.3 million inhabitants, with severe shortages of food, water, and basic supplies due to restricted aid access.

How has the international community, particularly the U.S., responded to the conflict?

The United States has provided unwavering diplomatic and military support for Israel’s campaign, despite urging Israel to minimize civilian casualties and further mass displacement.

Are there concerns about permanent displacement of Palestinians from Gaza?

Yes, there are growing concerns about potential permanent displacement of Palestinians, reminiscent of the mass exodus during the 1948 war surrounding the creation of Israel.

What are the health conditions in the shelters in Gaza, particularly in the south?

In shelters, especially in the south, overcrowded conditions and exposure to the elements have led to a surge in respiratory infections and gastrointestinal diseases among the displaced population.

What is the death toll and how has the conflict affected both sides?

The Palestinian death toll has surpassed 17,900, mostly women and children. On the Israeli side, over 1,200 people have been killed, mostly civilians during the initial attack by Hamas and other militants.

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