Gaza Strip — Amid escalating violence, Israeli strikes in central Gaza claimed the lives of at least 35 people on Sunday, as hospital officials reported. This devastating attack occurred as the conflict in the besieged enclave shows no signs of abating, even after Israel’s prime minister declared that the war would persist for “many more months,” disregarding international appeals for a halt in hostilities.
Israeli forces are currently operating in Khan Younis, which is the second-largest city in Gaza. There have been reports of strikes in the central region, which has become the new epicenter of the ongoing air and ground war.
These developments have caused great concern over the potential for widespread destruction in the area.During a confrontation with a cargo ship in the Red Sea, the U.S. military said Sunday that its forces shot and killed several Iran-backed Houthi rebels who were attempting to attack the vessel, escalating a maritime conflict linked to the war in Gaza. A Cabinet minister from Israel proposed the idea of promoting emigration from Gaza, which could escalate tensions with Egypt and other Arab states that are friendly to Israel.
Israel aims to cripple Hamas in Gaza, its base for the Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel. That day, the militants mercilessly took the lives of approximately 1,200 people and held around 240 others as hostages, breaching Israel’s formidable border defenses and severely undermining its sense of security.
According to the Health Ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza, Israel’s aggressive air and ground campaign has resulted in the deaths of over 21,800 Palestinians and injuries to more than 56,000 others. The indiscriminate nature of the attacks raises concerns about the well-being of civilians in the region.
According to the United Nations, a quarter of Gaza’s population is now on the brink of starvation due to the humanitarian crisis sparked by the war. Israel’s bombardments have devastated large areas of the territory, leading to the displacement of approximately 85% of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents.
US military sinks three Houthi boats attacking ship
On Sunday, the U.S. Military reported that its forces responded to an attack by Houthi rebels on a cargo ship in the Red Sea by engaging in a firefight, resulting in casualties among the rebels. This represents an alarming escalation in the maritime conflict associated with the war in Gaza.A White House official stated that moving forward, they will be taking action in self-defense.
The U.S. Central Command reported that the crew of the USS Gravely destroyer successfully intercepted two anti-ship ballistic missiles targeting the Singapore-flagged Maersk Hangzhou, which had previously been struck by a missile while sailing through the Southern Red Sea late Saturday.
Four boats attacked cargo ship with small arms, rebels tried to board.
The USS Gravely and helicopters from the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier swiftly reacted to the distress call from the Maersk Hangzhou and delivered verbal warnings to the assailants. However, the attackers disregarded the warnings and opened fire on the helicopters.
The U.S. Navy helicopters responded in self-defense, effectively eliminating three of the four boats and neutralizing the individuals on board, while the fourth boat fled the scene, as reported by the U.S. Central Command.There have been no reports of harm to any U.S. personnel or equipment, nor any casualties resulting from the cargo ship.
The Houthis have admitted that 10 of their soldiers lost their lives in the clash and have issued a warning about potential repercussions.
The offensive continues relentlessly
This week, Israel escalated its offensive in central Gaza, specifically targeting a cluster of densely populated communities that shelter refugees from the 1948 war, which led to the creation of Israel, and their subsequent generations.
Witnesses reported that in the central Gaza region of Zweida, at least 13 individuals lost their lives and numerous others were wounded as a result of an Israeli airstrike. The deceased were respectfully covered with white plastic and meticulously exhibited outside a hospital, where their loved ones gathered for solemn prayers prior to their final resting place.
Hussein Siam, whose relatives were killed, insists that they were innocent people targeted by Israeli warplanes.
The Al-Aqsa Hospital officials located in central Deir al-Balah have reported that out of the 35 bodies received on Sunday, 13 of them were accounted for.
The Israeli military has engaged in a conflict with militants in Khan Younis, where it suspects Hamas leaders are taking refuge. In addition, Israeli forces operating in the urban Shati refugee camp in northern Gaza discovered and successfully neutralized a bomb found in a kindergarten. Meanwhile, Hamas persisted in launching rockets towards southern Israel.
Since late October, Israel has encountered strong opposition from Hamas, resulting in a reported 172 soldiers killed during the ground offensive.Since late October, Israel has encountered strong opposition from Hamas, resulting in a reported 172 soldiers killed during the ground offensive.
Israeli official calls for large-scale relocation from Gaza
As a result of the conflict, many people have fled to the southern regions, seeking refuge in shelters and tent camps near the Egyptian border, despite ongoing Israeli attacks in those areas.
Palestinians and Arab nations are deeply concerned about the significant devastation and the mass migration southwards, fearing that Israel aims to forcibly displace Gaza’s population and hinder their ability to return.
Israel’s finance minister from the far-right made a significant statement on Sunday, proposing that the country should actively “promote migration” from Gaza and reestablish Jewish settlements in the region where settlers and soldiers were withdrawn from in 2005.
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich told Army Radio, “If the population of Gaza were only 100,000 or 200,000 Arabs and not 2 million, the entire discussion about ‘the day after’ would be completely different.”
While Smotrich has been greatly marginalized by a War Cabinet that has excluded him, his remarks run the risk of exacerbating tensions with Egypt, a neighboring country deeply troubled by the potential influx of Palestinian refugees, along with other friendly Arab nations.
Diverging opinions on post-war strategies
Israel is also in disagreement with the United States over the future of Gaza, despite the crucial military aid provided by the US for the offensive.
The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emphasized the necessity for Israel to uphold indefinite security control over the Gaza Strip. During a news conference on Saturday, he declared that the conflict would persist for “many more months” and that Israel would take responsibility for the Gaza side of the border with Egypt.
Israel claims that Hamas has managed to illegally transport weapons across the border from Egypt. However, it is expected that Egypt will strongly oppose any Israeli military intervention in the region.
Furthermore, Netanyahu firmly opposes the expansion of the internationally-supported Palestinian Authority’s limited control in Gaza, where Hamas ousted its forces in 2007.
The United States is eager for a single, cohesive Palestinian government to administer both Gaza and portions of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, with the ultimate goal of achieving statehood. Unfortunately, the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations disintegrated more than ten years ago, and ever since, Israeli governments have vehemently opposed the idea of Palestinian nationhood.
Thousands of citizens rally against Netanyahu
Despite widespread support for the war’s objectives, Israelis are beginning to express impatience. On Saturday, thousands participated in a major demonstration against Netanyahu since the war started, revealing a deeply divided nation over the leadership and judicial changes initiated prior to the conflict.
“Prime Minister Netanyahu and his government’s policies are the most significant existential threat to our country and our society,” said protester Gal Tzur.
Saturday’s other protest demanded the release of the remaining 129 hostages held by Hamas.
Egypt, acting as a mediator between Israel and Hamas, has put forward a comprehensive plan that begins with a hostage-prisoner exchange and a temporary cease-fire. In a previous similar arrangement in November, over 100 hostages were released by Hamas in exchange for 240 Palestinian prisoners freed by Israel.
However, reaching a new agreement still seems unlikely. Both Hamas and the smaller Islamic Jihad militant group have stated that they will not release any more hostages until Israel stops the offensive and pulls out of Gaza.