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Israel to intensify Gaza strikes, US pushes for more aid

Israel to intensify Gaza strikes, US pushes for more aid
An Israeli soldier secures an area, following a deadly infiltration by Hamas gunmen from the Gaza Strip, in Kibbutz Kissufim in southern Israel Oct 21, 2023.
PHOTO: Reuters

GAZA/JERUSALEM — Israel pounded southern Gaza with air strikes early on Sunday (Oct 22) and said it would intensify its attacks in the enclave's north, as the US committed to getting more aid to Palestinians running out of food, water, medicines and fuel.

Palestinian media reported at least 11 Palestinians were killed in an Israeli strike in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis. Palestinian media also said Israel was striking the southern city of Rafah.

The overnight strikes came hours after Israeli military spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari called on Gazans to move south out of harm's way.

"For your own safety move southward. We will continue to attack in the area of Gaza City and increase attacks," Hagari said in a briefing to Israeli reporters on Saturday.

The first humanitarian aid convoy to be allowed in to the besieged Gaza Strip since war broke out arrived through the Rafah border crossing on Saturday. The United Nations said the 20-truck convoy included life-saving supplies that would be received by the Palestinian Red Crescent.

But the UN humanitarian office (OCHA) said the volume of goods that entered on Saturday was equivalent to about four per cent of the daily average of imports into Gaza prior to the hostilities, and only a fraction of what was needed after 13 days of siege of an enclave that is home to 2.3 million people.

US President Joe Biden, a long-time staunch supporter of Israel, cheered the arrival of the aid after days of intense negotiations. He said the United States was committed to ensuring more assistance would enter via the Rafah border crossing.

"We will continue to work with all parties," Biden said in a statement.

The United States proposed late on Saturday a draft UN Security Council resolution that says Israel has a right to defend itself. The resolution also demands Iran stop exporting arms to "militias and terrorist groups threatening peace and security across the region."

Israel started its "total siege" of Gaza after an Oct 7 cross-border attack on southern Israel by militants of the Islamist movement Hamas, who killed 1,400 people, mainly civilians, in a shock rampage that has traumatised Israel.

Gaza's Health Ministry said on Saturday that Israel's air and missile strikes in response had killed at least 4,385 Palestinians, including hundreds of children, and more than a million of the territory's people have been displaced.

About 100,000 people joined a pro-Palestinian demonstration in central London on Saturday, marching through the British capital to demand an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

Ground invasion looms

Israel has amassed tanks and troops near the fenced border around the narrow coastal enclave for a planned ground invasion with the objective of annihilating Hamas, after several inconclusive wars dating to its seizure of power there in 2007.

In a video distributed by the Israeli military on Saturday, Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Herzi Halevi told troops: "We are going to go into the Gaza Strip... to destroy Hamas operatives and Hamas infrastructure and we will have in our mind the memories of the images and those who fell on Saturday two weeks ago."

Israeli troops have carried out live fire drills "in preparations for the next stage of war", footage released by the Israeli army on Saturday showed.

Hamas said it fired rockets towards Tel Aviv on Saturday in response to Israeli air strikes that Gaza's Health Ministry and Hamas media said killed at least 50 people and injured dozens.

Amid mounting international concern the conflict could widen into a regional war, Blinken on Saturday cautioned Lebanon's caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati in a call that the Lebanese people would be affected if his country were drawn in, the State Department said.

Israel said its aircraft struck Hezbollah targets in Lebanon on Saturday and that one of its soldiers was hit by an anti-tank missile, in cross-border fighting that the Iran-backed group said killed six of its fighters.

Israeli aircraft also struck a compound beneath a mosque in the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank early on Sunday that the military said was being used by militants to organise attacks. Palestinian medics said at least one person was killed.

At least 84 Palestinians in the West Bank have been killed in clashes with Israeli forces since the Oct 7 Hamas rampage, Palestinian officials say.

ALSO READ: Israeli air strikes hammer Gaza anew after Hamas frees 2 US hostages

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