Gaza war: Palestinians run as Israeli Forces return to Jabalia

Fierce combat has been reported in Jabalia, northern Gaza, after the Israeli force returned to areas where it believed Hamas had regrouped.

Residents who left reported seeing tanks approaching Jabalia’s refugee camp, which has been under intense shelling since Saturday.

Palestinian armed groups also claimed they were fighting troops in the camp.

Meanwhile, the UN reported that 360,000 people have fled Rafah, in the south, since an offensive began a week ago.

The Israeli military has ordered the evacuation of the eastern part of the city, which has more than a million Palestinians seeking sanctuary.

On Sunday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken cautioned Israel that a full-scale offensive in Rafah may result in “anarchy” without destroying Hamas.

His remarks followed briefings to Israeli media by anonymous senior Israeli military personnel, who said that Hamas’ revival in northern Gaza was caused by Israel’s government’s absence of a detailed plan for the “day after” the conflict.

In January, the military reduced operations in the north after claiming to have “dismantled” Hamas brigades there. However, this created a power vacuum, which allowed the gang to regroup.

According to the World Food Programme’s director, an estimated 300,000 people stranded in the damaged region are experiencing a “full-blown famine” as a result of a lack of relief delivery.

Residents who were seen fleeing Jabalia on foot on Monday morning said they left after watching tanks march into the area.

“We’re not sure where to go. “We have been displaced from one location to another,” one woman told Reuters news agency. “We are running through the streets. I witnessed it with my own eyes. “I saw the tank and the bulldozer.”

The military wings of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, both of which are designated as terrorist organisations by Israel, the United Kingdom, the United States, and other nations, stated their members were hitting Israeli forces in and around the Jabalia camp with mortars, anti-tank missiles, and machine guns.

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The Hamas-affiliated Safa news agency also reported skirmishes between Palestinian armed groups and Israeli tanks east of the Jabalia camp’s market, near numerous UN-run schools that were being used as shelters by residents.

Meanwhile, the official Palestinian news agency Wafa said that two Palestinians were killed in Israeli strikes on residences in Jabalia camp on Monday, as well as several more in a hit in Jabalia town.

It further stated that ambulance teams had collected the dead of 20 civilians in Jabalia and sent them to Kamal Adwan hospital in Beit Lahia.

The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) provided no immediate comment.

On Sunday, the IDF stated that forces began an operation in Jabalia the previous evening “based on intelligence information regarding Hamas’ attempts to reassemble its terrorist infrastructure and operatives in the area.”

It came after citizens were ordered to evacuate to western Gaza City.

The IDF also stated that it was acting in the Zeitoun region of eastern Gaza City to “eliminate terrorists and dismantle terrorist infrastructure”.

Safa claimed that Israeli shellfire struck Zeitoun on Monday morning.

Unrwa, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, stated that the bombardment and evacuation orders have led to increased displacement and fear for thousands of families in northern Gaza. The agency also cautioned that the estimated 360,000 civilians who have fled Rafah in the past week have no safe place to go.

After seven months of fighting in Gaza, Israel has reiterated that victory is unachievable without capturing Rafah and removing the final surviving Hamas units. However, the UN and Western nations have cautioned that an all-out assault might result in widespread civilian casualties and a humanitarian disaster.

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There have been terrible scenes in Rafah since the IDF said last Monday that it will launch a “precise operation against Hamas” in eastern Rafah.

On Saturday, fliers were distributed urging inhabitants to evacuate more eastern neighbourhoods, including those near the city centre.

Unrwa’s deputy Gaza director, Scott Anderson, who is headquartered in western Rafah, told the BBC on Monday that the Israeli operation had now reached “about a third of the way across Rafah” and included the old town.

He said he could hear explosions and air strikes, and that the battle had disrupted the functioning of hospitals and many of Unrwa’s institutions in Rafah refugee camp, including a primary healthcare centre.

According to Palestinian media, four individuals, including a toddler, were killed on Monday in an Israeli air strike on a residence in the Brazil neighbourhood, just south-east of the camp.

Hamas’ armed wing also claimed it had attacked Israeli forces east of Rafah.

Many residents who are sheltering in central and western districts that are not under evacuation orders have also fled, fearing that the Israeli operation may soon escalate into a large-scale offensive.

Ghada el-Kurd, a mother of two, told the BBC on Monday that she had recently fled to Deir al-Balah in Gaza’s Middle Area, marking the seventh time she has been moved during the conflict.

She stated that the streets of Deir al-Balah were “full of sewage” and that the devastation of homes and infrastructure was “huge, not like Rafah”.

She continued: “I’m lucky enough to have a home, but most other people are living in tents and are [suffering from] the heat, a lack of water and a lack of food.”

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Deir al-Balah is part of the “expanded humanitarian area” declared by the IDF, which extends north from the coastal strip of al-Mawasi to Khan Younis and Gaza’s Middle Area.

The IDF has promised refugees that field hospitals, tents and humanitarian supplies will be available, but Mr Anderson of Unrwa claims that the infrastructure is inadequate.

According to al-Mawasi, “everything that people have access to has to be trucked in… that includes food, water, moving solid waste”.

“For those who are moving to Khan Younis, the situation is virtually similar… That is still recovering from the Israeli operation a few months back.”

Mr Anderson also urged Israel and Hamas to agree to the development of a “fixed corridor” that would allow UN trucks to securely enter and exit the neighbouring Kerem Shalom border crossing with Israel, a vital access point for aid.

Israel reported the bridge reopened last Wednesday after being closed for four days due to Hamas rocket fire, which killed four Israeli soldiers. However, the UN stated collecting aid was too dangerous because to clashes in eastern Rafah.

The Rafah border crossing with Egypt has also been shuttered since Israeli troops seized complete control of the Palestinian side last Tuesday.

In a statement released on Sunday, Hamas accused Israel of “escalating their brutal massacres in various areas of the Gaza Strip”.

Israel launched a military assault in Gaza to crush Hamas in response to the group’s cross-border onslaught on southern Israel on October 7, which killed around 1,200 people and kidnapped 252 more.

More than 35,090 Palestinians have died in Gaza since then, according to the territory’s Hamas-controlled health ministry.

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