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Israel widens military offensive on Gaza

ISRAEL’S military called again today for mass evacuations from the southern town of Khan Younis as it widened its ground offensive and bombarded targets across the Gaza Strip.

Residents reported hearing air strikes and explosions in and around Khan Younis overnight after the military dropped leaflets warning people to relocate farther south, towards the Egyptian border.

Later in the day, the military told civilians to avoid the main north-south road between Khan Younis and the central town of Deir al-Balah, saying that it had become a battlefield and was extremely dangerous.

That indicated that Israeli troops were approaching Khan Younis from the north-east, possibly with the intention of cutting central Gaza off from the south.

Israeli military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said the army was pursuing Hamas with “maximum force” in the north and south, while, he claimed, trying to minimise harm to civilians.

He pointed to a map that divides southern Gaza into dozens of blocks in order to give “precise instructions” to residents on where to evacuate.

Many Palestinians, however, have ignored past evacuation orders, saying that they do not feel any safer in the areas where they are told to seek refuge — which have also been repeatedly bombed.

“The level of human suffering is intolerable,” International Committee of the Red Cross president Mirjana Spoljaric said during a rare visit to Gaza.

“It is unacceptable that civilians have no safe place to go in Gaza and, with a military siege in place, there is also no adequate humanitarian response currently possible,” she said.

Gaza’s Health Ministry said the Palestinian death toll had reached at least 15,899, with more than 41,000 wounded. It added that 70 per cent of the dead were women and children.

The United States says it is pressing Israel to avoid more mass displacements and killing of civilians. On a visit to the region, US Vice-President Kamala Harris also claimed that Washington would not allow the forced relocation of Palestinians out of Gaza or the occupied West Bank or the redrawing of Gaza’s borders.

However, the US has never taken concrete action to rein in Israel.

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