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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Area around Khan Younis ‘essentially besieged,’ relief official says

The house in Khan Younis under which a tunnel entrance was found, as photographed during an escorted tour, on Jan 19. 2024. (Isabel Kershner/The New York Times)

By Hiba Yazbek and Adam Yasgon

Fighting intensified in the southern Gaza Strip on Monday, with medical personnel reporting heavy exchanges of gunfire and a surge of Israeli tanks and troops into areas around hospitals.

The Palestinian Red Crescent Society and the Gaza Health Ministry said many people had been killed and wounded in the city of Khan Younis on Monday, without providing specific counts. Nahed Abu Taaema, director of surgery at Nasser Hospital, the largest hospital in southern Gaza, told Al Jazeera in a televised interview that it had received 100 wounded people and 50 bodies.

Naseem Hasan, an ambulance officer at Nasser, said in an interview that tanks were about 100 meters south of the hospital and “can target anyone.” He said one ambulance carrying a person who had been shot in the head was not able to reach Nasser Monday morning and had to go to a hospital in Rafah — a journey that took three hours.

In a statement, the Red Crescent said the presence of Israeli troops near Al-Amal Hospital, which it operates, meant its ambulances could not reach the injured in Khan Younis. It said that anyone attempting to move around the area was coming under fire.

“Khan Younis is very dangerous now,” Nebal Farsakh, a spokesperson for the Red Crescent, said in an interview. “The whole district of Khan Younis is essentially besieged.”

As Israel has wound down its operations in northern Gaza, it has pushed ahead with its invasion of Khan Younis, where hundreds of thousands of displaced people have sought shelter in schools, hospitals and tent cities.

Israeli officials have said the campaign in the city — which they describe as a Hamas stronghold — was targeting the group’s leadership, and they have accused Hamas of using hospitals and other civilian infrastructure to hide its operations. But civilians, many of whom have relocated several times since the start of the war, have been left with no refuge.

Wafa, the Palestinian Authority’s official news agency, reported Monday that several people had been killed and wounded at a school in Mawasi, west of Khan Younis, after an Israeli strike. The report could not be independently verified. The school was sheltering displaced people who went there after the Israeli military told them that Mawasi, a seaside area, was a safe zone.

Farsakh said that Red Crescent crews had been receiving calls from people who were wounded across Khan Younis, including at the school in Mawasi, and that the crews were unable to respond “because they are being targeted.”

The Israeli military didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. On Sunday, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said that Israeli forces in southern Gaza were acting with great precision and would be “expanding” their operations in Khan Younis.

“The plumes of smoke from the tanks, artillery and planes belonging to the air force will continue to cover the Gaza Strip’s skies until we achieve our goals, chief among them toppling Hamas and returning the hostages to their homes,” he said in a statement.

The Gaza Health Ministry said Monday that Israeli strikes had killed 190 people and wounded 340 others in the enclave over the previous 24 hours. It did not specify how many of the casualties were in Khan Younis.

The ministry said Sunday that more than 25,000 people had been killed since Israel began its bombardment of the strip after the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack on its territory, which Israeli officials say killed 1,200 people.

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