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Gazans flee homes ahead of new Israeli operation in northern neighborhood

2 weeks ago 31

Israeli forces ordered residents to evacuate the Shejaiya neighborhood of Gaza City as Palestinian media reported intensified strikes in the area Thursday.

“You are in a dangerous combat zone,” the Israel Defense Forces wrote in a statement in Arabic for residents of Shejaiya and nearby areas. “The IDF will act forcefully against terrorist organizations in your areas.” The IDF warned people to “evacuate immediately south on Salah al-Din Road.”

Videos shared on social media showed crowds of residents walking through the streets and riding bicycles, apparently heeding the evacuation orders.

Palestinians took cover in the Shejaiya neighborhood of Gaza City on June 27 amid Israeli airstrikes. (Video: Obtained by Reuters)

Shejaiya was heavily targeted in fighting between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants last year. The densely packed neighborhood was where Israeli forces accidentally shot and killed three Israeli hostages in December.

The IDF declined to confirm that an operation was taking place when reached for comment Thursday.

Mahmoud Basal, a spokesman for Gaza’s civil defense, said there had been heavy bombardment since early Thursday in eastern areas of Gaza City, especially the Shejaiya neighborhood, with “violent attacks by artillery and warplanes” on houses belonging to at least five families. Rescue workers recovered five bodies from one of the houses, he said, but others were impossible to reach.

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His teams had tried to reach the stricken homes but retreated after encountering Israeli military vehicles, which were present in several areas of the neighborhood, he said. “If the military operation is quick, the civil defense teams can move,” he said.

Thursday’s military operation followed weeks of Israeli bombardment in the area, he added, with 100 killed in the last week alone.

Israel has previously claimed to have routed Hamas militants in northern Gaza but has conducted repeated operations throughout the area pursuing remnants of militant groups.

Meanwhile in the West Bank, an Israeli soldier was killed early Thursday in the flash point city of Jenin by what Israeli news outlets described as an explosion caused by a device buried underground. A second explosion injured other Israeli soldiers who were part of a “rescue force,” Haaretz reported.

An IDF statement identified the officer as Capt. Alon Sacgiu, 22, and said he was a “sniper team commander in the Haruv Reconnaissance Unit of the Kfir Brigade.” Another soldier in the unit was “severely” injured, the statement said. Haaretz reported that 16 soldiers were lightly or moderately injured in the same attack.

A statement early Thursday by the Quds Brigades, the armed wing of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, said the group had detonated several explosive devices targeting “occupation vehicles storming the city of Jenin” and its refugee camp, causing casualties.

Islamic Jihad spokesman Abu Hamza said the group’s fighters blew up two military vehicles at midnight and then clashed with the rescue forces. He dubbed it the “Battle of Strength of Jenin 2” and said that, in light of escalations, “we will not leave the battlefields and confrontation until the occupation is defeated, and the enemy will have no choice but humiliating withdrawal and wasted dignity in the West Bank and Gaza.”

Despite rising violence in the West Bank over the past eight months, with Israeli forces carrying out frequent raids, deaths of Israeli soldiers in the West Bank are rare. According to data from the IDF, collated by the Times of Israel, one soldier had been killed during a counterterrorism operation in the West Bank since the start of the war.

Israel’s crackdown in West Bank towns, including in Jenin, since the start of the war in Gaza has killed hundreds of people, according to the United Nations.

During a raid in Jenin last week, Israeli soldiers strapped a wounded Palestinian man to the hood of a jeep, in an incident that was captured on video and drew widespread condemnation, including from the State Department, which called it “shocking.”

The man, Mujahid Abadi, said in an interview with the Associated Press that he had been shot after stepping outside to see if Israeli forces were raiding his uncle’s neighborhood. When Israeli forces found him, they beat him and threw him onto the hood of the jeep, he said.

The Israeli military said the incident violated protocol and was being investigated.

The United States has provided $6.5 billion in security assistance to Israel since the start of the war — a previously unannounced figure that was part of discussions in Washington this week with a visiting delegation headed by Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant. The announcement comes as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly accused the Biden administration of slow-rolling military assistance. “This is a massive, massive undertaking,” said a senior administration official speaking on the condition of anonymity under rules set by the White House, who disclosed the totals as an indication of the depth and complexity of U.S. support for Israel.

Anti-government protesters and the families of hostages blocked major highways in Israel on June 27. (Video: Reuters)

Anti-government protesters and the families of hostages blocked major highways in Israel. Israeli media posted photos and videos that appeared to show a metallic cage with the word “Help” emblazoned on it burning in the middle of Ayalon Highway, the main road in central Israel, going through Tel Aviv, as well as blockages on Route 2, the main coastal highway. Parallel protests are set to take place across Israel throughout the day, organized by a coalition of anti-government groups as well as family members of hostages. One of the groups, Hofshi B’Artzenu (“Free in Our Homeland”), called for new elections and the dissolution of Israel’s parliament.

The Israeli military said it facilitated the passage of 68 people about 20 sick and injured children and their companions out of Gaza on Thursday. The patients’ movement was done through the Kerem Shalom crossing to Egypt and elsewhere, in coordination with the United States, Egypt and other partners, said COGAT, the Israeli military body responsible for Palestinian civilian affairs. The IDF said that effort “reaffirms our commitment to improving health care access in Gaza.”

Canada imposed sanctions on seven individuals and five entities for having a role in “facilitating, supporting or financially contributing to acts of violence by Israeli extremist settlers against Palestinian civilians and their property.” The list includes Daniella Weiss, an ultranationalist settler leader, and the Amana group, which funds settlements. “Attacks by extremist Israeli settlers — a long-standing source of tension and conflict in the region — undermine the human rights of Palestinians, prospects for a two-state solution and pose significant risks to regional security,” read a statement posted alongside the list.

At least 37,765 ​​people have been killed and 86,429 injured in Gaza since the war started, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. It does not distinguish between civilians and combatants but says the majority of the dead are women and children. Israel estimates that about 1,200 people were killed in Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack, including more than 300 soldiers, and it says 314 soldiers have been killed since the start of its military operations in Gaza.

Hajar Harb, Karen DeYoung, Lior Soroka and Claire Parker contributed to this report.

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