On Monday, the Israeli army took control of a hospital and fenced off another as it entered the western city of Khan Younis, as part of its largest campaign of land, sea bombardment and air raids in southern Gaza so far this year, which have sent dozens of families fleeing. After days without major changes in positions, troops advanced to Al Mawasi, a city on the Mediterranean coast previously designated as a safe zone. Images from the area show clouds of smoke from the bombings, Israeli armored vehicles in new neighborhoods of Khan Younis (Gaza’s second largest city), cars and entire families in trailers heading towards the neighboring region of Rafah, where a million people have already gathered. .
The Rafah region, where the border crossing with Egypt is located, concentrates the majority of displaced people – many have fled more than once from a point in the Gaza Strip – due to the intensification of attacks against Khan Younis and Deir Al Balah, a refugee camp. in the center, according to the UN humanitarian agency in its latest report on Sunday. There, tents pitched with leftover plastic and clothes hung outside proliferate, and people struggle to get at least one meal a day.
The Hamas government’s health ministry in Gaza says troops took control of a hospital in Khan Younis, Al Jair, and arrested medical staff. There remains only one accessible hospital in the city, Al Nasser, whose images show injured people being treated on the ground due to lack of space. The hospital’s journalist, Ahmed Al Madhul, broadcast a video of men digging in the compound to bury the dead, at the risk of abandoning it, as happened in November at Al Shifa Hospital, in the country’s capital. Gaza. “It is very difficult to leave the complex and go to a cemetery and bury them, because we are surrounded and anyone who leaves the complex is attacked,” one of the participants in the burials, Abdelkarim, told Reuters Ahmad. Authorities say 40 bodies were buried there.
Also in Khan Yunis is Al Amal Hospital. The Palestinian Red Crescent said it believes there are dozens of other victims it cannot reach and reports having lost contact with its teams. The deaths since the start of the war on October 7, following the Hamas attack, reached 25,295 this Monday, including 190 in the last 24 hours, according to the report published this Monday by the government’s Ministry of Health. . of Hamas in Gaza. Around 80% are minors and women.
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Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced on Sunday that “the operation in Khan Younis will expand and intensify to more sites.” “Clouds of smoke will cover the skies of Gaza until we achieve our objectives,” he said.
The advance of Israeli troops comes against a backdrop of growing internal division during their journey. Although the vast majority of the country’s Jewish population supports the war, growing questions have been raised about the handling of the campaign. Particularly from the relatives of the 136 hostages remaining in Gaza, who increased the protests after days of information on a second exchange – after that of November – to the point of entering this Monday, by force and with posters. , during a meeting of the Parliament’s Finance Committee in Jerusalem. “This can’t continue like this! ‘You’re sitting here while our children die!’ one of them shouted as security guards tried to stop him. The group, holding banners and photos of the kidnapped people, shouted at parliamentarians phrases such as “Shame on you!” or “What if you paid a price to save the hostages?
The forum which represents the families published a press release in which it underlined that “the anger and agitation” in Parliament “could have been avoided” and expressed its wish that “the elected officials do not address any other issue than the return families “. hostages whose time is running out.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Monday with a group of relatives of those kidnapped and issued a statement in which he reported an Israeli initiative for their release, which he could not “go into details.” He stressed that there is no “authentic proposal from Hamas, contrary to what is said.” He was referring to reports that Qatar and Egypt would push for a ceasefire that would involve the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza for a period of 90 days. On Monday, the American portal Axios reported an Israeli proposal providing for a pause in the conflict of up to two months as part of a multi-phase agreement, which envisages the release of all the hostages. This would start with kidnapped civilians and would be accompanied by the release of a notable number of Palestinian prisoners and increased humanitarian aid.
The Netanyahu government’s message contradicts its comments on Sunday, in which it said that “Hamas calls for an end to the war” in exchange for the release of the hostages. He rejected it on the grounds that it would mean that the deaths of nearly 200 Israeli soldiers in Gaza during the invasion (the army just announced three more on Monday) “would have been in vain”.
The incident also comes amid growing calls for early elections, the first proposal since the start of the war subjecting Netanyahu to a vote of no confidence. It was presented by Merav Mijaeli, the leader of the Labor Party (which did not join the concentration government), who will leave office in April. The reason: precisely “the failure of the Israeli government to bring back the 136 hostages”.
The initiative received only 18 votes out of 120 and was boycotted by executive deputies, who called it a “wartime political spectacle.” Yesh Atid, the party of previous Prime Minister Yair Lapid, did not support it, although it also remained in opposition, considering it inappropriate, but it reiterated this Monday its call for Netanyahu to sit down with him, as leader of the party. the opposition, to “set a date” for early elections. This is a demand that is increasingly present in the demonstrations.
Since the start of the war, all polls indicate that Netanyahu would not be able to renew his initial government coalition composed of ultra-Orthodox and ultra-nationalists, which he had formed in December 2022. The latest, from Channel 12, goes in the same direction: his party, the Likud, half of the 32 seats would be left, while the National Unity, the formation of the former Minister of Defense Benny Gantz (today in the ‘Executive Focus), would skyrocket from 12 to 37, a growth at the expense of Lapid, who would fall from 24 to 14.
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