Israel launches strikes across Gaza as US envoy arrives

Nidal al-Mughrabi and Dan Williams |

Israel’s offensive continues unabated as the Gaza Strip is pounded by air and ground fire.
Israel’s offensive continues unabated as the Gaza Strip is pounded by air and ground fire.

Israeli planes and tanks have pounded areas across the Gaza Strip, residents say, as White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu amid US calls for a more focused military campaign.

Sullivan was expected to press for Israel to go after Hamas militants in a targeted way, not with a full-scale assault on the southern Gaza city of Rafah, the White House said before the discussions on Sunday.

Israel has been pushing into the city that it says is the last bastion of Hamas forces. 

Palestinians are storming trucks
The UN aid agency for Palestinians says not enough food is getting through to people in Gaza. (AP PHOTO)

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have fled the area that was one of their few remaining places of refuge.

“Across the Gaza Strip, there is no safety,” said Majid Omran who told Reuters his family had fled Rafah and just returned to what was left of their home in the southern city of Khan Yunis that they had fled almost five months ago.

“We took our children, grandchildren, and daughters and we came and lived above the rubble of our home – because there is no place to take refuge here.”

Israeli forces also pushed deeper into the narrow alleyways of Jabalia in northern Gaza, returning to an area that they said they had cleared earlier in the conflict, residents said.

The Israeli military has said its operations in Jabalia – the largest of Gaza’s eight historic refugee camps – are precise and meant to stop Hamas from re-establishing its grip there.

The Israeli military said it was “operating to identify armed terrorist cells and … conducting dozens of strikes to assist the forces operating on the ground” in the Jabalia area.

Ahead of Sunday’s talks, an Israeli official said Netanyahu and his senior aides would try to reach agreement with Sullivan about the need to press ahead with the Rafah push.

Past US. misgivings about the feasibility of Israel’s humanitarian measures might have been allayed by the evacuation of about half of the city’s Palestinians in 12 days, said the official, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity.

“We’ve shown that this is not only necessary but doable,” the official said.

Palestinians mourn their relatives
Israeli strikes have killed at least 35,386 Palestinians since October 7, officials in Gaza say. (AP PHOTO)

The official said Israel would also air concerns about dozens of tunnels it says its forces have found under Rafah, running into next-door Egypt – which has condemned the military sweep.

Netanyahu has said the operation in Rafah, where Israel believes that as much as one-quarter of Hamas’ fighting forces are holed up, could be completed within weeks.

Washington worries for the hundreds of thousands of displaced Palestinians sheltering there and has cited a need not just to evacuate them but also to ensure adequate alternative accommodation.

At least 28 Palestinians were killed on Sunday, Gaza health officials and Hamas said, most of them in a strike on a house in Nuseirat in the central Gaza Strip.

The Gaza Civil Emergency Service said in a statement rescue teams have so far recovered the bodies of 150 Palestinians killed by the army in recent days, while their count showed that 300 houses had been struck by Israeli aerial and ground fire.

The October 7 Hamas assault on Israel that sparked the war killed 1200 people, according to Israeli tallies. 

About 125 of the 253 people abducted in the raid are believed to remain in captivity in Gaza.

At least 35,386 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli strikes since October 7, according to the enclave’s health ministry.

Aid agencies have warned of widespread hunger and shortages of fuel and medical supplies.