Israel pounds targets across Gaza, awaits Hamas word on three hostages By Reuters

By Francis 7 Min Read


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: People hold posters depicting Israeli hostages in Gaza during the event “100 days 100 voices” to mark 100 days since the October 7 Hamas attack, calling for their release, in front of the Opera Bastille in Paris, France, January 14, 2024. REUT


By Nidal al-Mughrabi, Fadi Shana and Dan Williams

DOHA/GAZA/JERUSALEM (Reuters) -Israeli forces bombarded targets in the south, north and centre of the Gaza Strip on Monday ahead of an expected announcement by the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas on the fate of three Israeli hostages shown in a video clip at the weekend.

Twelve Palestinians were killed and others wounded in an Israeli airstrike overnight on a house in Gaza City in the north, health officials said, while plumes of smoke rose above the main southern city of Khan Younis shelled by Israeli tanks.

Hamas-affiliated Palestinian Press Agency SAFA reported fierce clashes between Hamas militants and Israeli forces in Khan Younis, while Israeli tank barrages were also reported near the Al-Bureij and Al-Maghazi refugee camps in central Gaza.

In Al-Nusseirat refugee camp, local journalist Doaa El-Baz showed footage of what had once been the street where she lived.

“This whole neighbourhood is destroyed. Not a single house has been spared,” she said, standing before mounds of rubble.

“They killed all our dreams here. The house where I grew up and spent all my childhood,” Baz said, her voice trembling.

Communications across the narrow coastal enclave remained severed for a fourth consecutive day, residents said.

In a statement, the Israeli military said it had killed two Palestinian fighters in an airstrike on their vehicle as it was transporting weapons in Khan Younis, and also raided a Hamas command centre in that city and struck two arms caches.

The three hostages are among some 240 seized by Hamas militants during a surprise cross-border rampage into southern Israel on Oct. 7.

That Hamas assault, in which Israel says more than 1,200 people were killed, prompted an aerial and ground blitz by Israeli forces that over 100 days since has turned much of Gaza into a wasteland and killed, health officials say, some 24,100 people and wounded nearly 61,000.

Health officials said 132 were killed in the past 24 hours, suggesting to Palestinians that there has been little let-up in the intensity of Israel’s offensive despite its announcement of a shift to a new, more targeted phase.

Israel’s military has said it will devote months of more targeted operations against the leaders and positions of Hamas in the south after an initial all-out offensive centred on clearing the heavily built-up northern end of the Strip.

Still, almost two million displaced people are sheltering in tents and other temporary accommodation amidst fighting in the south, with the tiny territory menaced by starvation and disease due to chronic shortages of food, fuel and medicines.


Hamas aired video on Sunday showing three Israeli hostages it is holding in Gaza and urged the Israeli government to halt its aerial and ground offensive and bring about their release.

The undated 37-second video of Noa Argamani, 26, Yossi Sharabi, 53, and Itai Svirsky, 38, ended with the caption: “Tomorrow (Monday) we will inform you of their fate.”

Around half of the 240 hostages taken by Hamas in its Oct. 7 incursion into southern Israel were released during a short-lived November truce, but Israel says 132 remain in Gaza and that 25 have died in captivity.

Speaking in Egypt at the weekend, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi called for the prompt resumption of Israel-Palestinian peace talks involving “the formulation of a specific timetable and road map for the implementation of a ‘two-state solution'”.

However, there have been no peace talks since the last round collapsed amid mutually irreconcilable demands in 2014, with the Western-backed Palestinian Authority that had negotiated with Israel deeply unpopular among Palestinians and its rival Hamas – which had ruled Gaza since 2007 – sworn to Israel’s destruction.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has repeatedly brushed aside calls for a ceasefire in Gaza, saying Israel will keep going until it achieves complete victory over Hamas and recovers the remaining hostages.

Wang, who is on a regional tour, said last week that Chinese President Xi Jinping had “in-depth communication” with the leaders of Saudi Arabia and Iran. China’s top diplomat has also held talks with the Secretary-General of the Arab League and expressed concerns over the Red Sea, Xinhua reported.


With fears growing of a wider conflict in the Middle East, the U.S. military said on Sunday its fighter aircraft shot down an anti-ship cruise missile fired from Houthi militant areas of Yemen toward a U.S. destroyer operating in the Southern Red Sea.

The midair interception is the latest incident in the Red Sea where the Houthis have been attacking international shipping in what they say is a campaign to support Palestinians under siege from Israeli forces in Gaza.

It follows a series of American and British airstrikes on Houthi targets in Yemen last week that have drawn threats of a “strong” response from the Iranian-backed militia.

Asked on Monday whether Britain would take part in more air strikes against the Houthis, British defence minister Grant Schapps said “let’s wait and see what happens… freedom of navigation is an international right that must be protected”.

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