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Heavy fighting as Palestinians say Israeli tanks approach Gaza City

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Israel and Hamas reported heavy fighting in the northern Gaza Strip on Tuesday, as Palestinians said Israeli tanks were approaching the territory’s main city from several directions.

The intensification of fighting around Gaza City, which Israel considers the command center of Hamas, came as the UN warned that the Mediterranean enclave was becoming a “living hell”.

The Israeli military said its troops were “waging fierce battles” against Hamas militants “deep in the Gaza Strip” and operating in the north of the enclave, attacking Hamas “on the ground and from the air “.

The office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who this week rejected calls for a ceasefire and declared it “time for war,” said the Israeli army had struck about 300 targets in 24 hours, including anti-tank missiles and rocket attacks. military posts and complexes inside the underground tunnels.

Israel has been reluctant to provide details on the extent of its invasion, which began Friday.

But officials from Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a smaller militant group, told the Financial Times that dozens of Israeli tanks had tried to advance under air cover in northwest Gaza and south of the city of Gaza, in the middle of bitter fighting.

The Hamas-controlled Interior Ministry in Gaza said Israeli forces had reached the Karama area north of Gaza City and had tanks on Salah al-Din Street, the main interior north-south axis. of the enclave.

Hamas said it attacked two Israeli tanks and bulldozers in northwest Gaza, as well as Israeli infantry troops near the Kerem Shalom crossing in the south of the Gaza Strip. He adds that Israel is “trying to separate northern Gaza from its south.”

Unicef, the United Nations children’s fund, said Tuesday that the enclave had become “a cemetery for thousands of children” and a “hell for everyone else.” He adds that Gaza now provides only 5 percent of its normal water production and that infant deaths from dehydration pose a growing threat.

More than 8,500 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli bombardments on the Gaza Strip, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza.

More than 1,400 people died in Hamas’s bloody attack on Israel on October 7, which sparked the war, according to Israeli officials.

In a sign of the risk of the conflict extending to the region, the Israeli army announced on Tuesday that it had intercepted a surface-to-surface missile fired towards the southern city of Eilat “from the Red Sea area”.

The Houthis, an Iran-aligned rebel movement that controls northern Yemen, later said they had launched “a large number of missiles and drones” at Israeli targets.

They added that this was their third such attack and that they would carry out more, calling on “the Arab and Islamic people (to) come to the aid of Gaza, its children and its women.” .

The Israeli military said there was “no threat or risk to civilians.”

An IDF official added that this was the first use of the country’s “Arrow” air defense system since the start of the war. Earlier this month, the United States shot down 15 drones and four cruise missiles fired by the Houthis and heading toward Israel.

A senior UN official also warned this week that the war would “spill over into Syria”. . . has already started.”

Speaking to the Security Council, Geir Pedersen, the UN envoy for Syria, highlighted recent airstrikes on airports in Aleppo and Damascus, widely believed to have been carried out by Israeli forces. He also highlighted US retaliation against what it sees as multiple attacks against its forces “by groups it says are supported by Iran, including on Syrian territory.”

Additionally, the conflict between Israel and Hamas has led to an increase in hostilities on Israel’s northern border with Lebanon, where IDF forces have intensified cross-border fire with the Iran-backed Hezbollah militant group in recent years. weeks.

Additional reporting by Samer Al-Atrush, Raya Jalabi and Simeon Kerr

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