New Delhi: In a major escalation of the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, the Israeli army has launched a massive assault on the southern Gaza Strip, targeting the city of Khan Yunis and its surroundings. The Israeli army has also dropped leaflets in some parts of southern Gaza, warning the residents to leave their homes immediately as Khan Yunis has become a “dangerous war zone”.
The Israeli attack on the south, which has been going on for more than three hours, is an expansion of its offensive that has so far concentrated on the northern part of the Gaza Strip, where Hamas and other militant groups have their strongholds. The Israeli army claims that it is targeting the rocket launchers, tunnels, and command centers of Hamas and its allies, who have fired more than 3,000 rockets at Israel since the start of the hostilities on October 7.
However, the Palestinian health ministry says that the Israeli strikes have killed more than 200 people, including 59 children and 35 women, and injured more than 1,400 others. The United Nations says that more than 52,000 Palestinians have been displaced by the Israeli bombardment and that the humanitarian situation in Gaza is dire, with shortages of water, electricity, food, and medical supplies.
The Israeli attack on Khan Yunis, which is the second largest city in Gaza and home to more than 350,000 people, has sparked fears of a ground invasion by the Israeli army, which has massed thousands of troops and tanks along the border with Gaza. At the beginning of the conflict, thousands of people had fled from northern Gaza to Khan Yunis and other cities in the south, hoping to find safety and shelter.
The leaflets dropped by the Israeli army in southern Gaza read: “The IDF (Israel Defense Forces) is striking Hamas’s underground infrastructure and rocket launchers in your area. The area has become a dangerous war zone. For your own safety, you are requested to evacuate the area immediately and head towards the center of the city of Khan Yunis.”
The leaflets also warned the residents not to return to their homes until further notice, and to stay away from Hamas and other militant groups. The leaflets said that the Israeli army was not targeting civilians and that anyone who needed humanitarian assistance could contact the Red Cross or the UN.
The escalation of the Israeli attack on Gaza comes amid international efforts to broker a ceasefire and end the bloodshed. Egypt, Qatar, Turkey, and other regional mediators have been trying to persuade both sides to agree to a truce, but so far without success. The United States, which is Israel’s main ally, has also sent an envoy to the region to facilitate the negotiations.
However, both Israel and Hamas have shown no signs of backing down from their positions. Israel says that it will continue its operation until it achieves its goals of restoring security and deterrence, and that it has the right to defend itself from the rocket attacks by Hamas. Hamas says that it will not stop its resistance until Israel ends its blockade and occupation of Gaza, and respects the rights of the Palestinians.
The conflict between Israel and Hamas has also sparked tensions and violence in other parts of the region, especially in Iran, which is a staunch supporter of Hamas and an enemy of Israel. Iran’s army chief, Hussein Salami, had threatened Israel that if it continued its attacks on Gaza, it would be “wiped out from the world” within 48 hours. The United States, which is engaged in indirect talks with Iran over its nuclear program, had warned Iran to stay out of the conflict, or face serious consequences.