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800,000 flee south as Israeli forces battle Hamas around Gaza City

DEIR AL-BALAH (AP) – Israeli troops battled Hamas militants and attacked underground compounds with a focus on northern Gaza. An estimated 800,000 Palestinians have fled south, even though Israeli airstrikes have pounded the entirety of the besieged enclave.

Buoyed by the first successful rescue of a captive held by Hamas, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected calls for a cease-fire and again vowed to crush Hamas’ ability to govern Gaza or threaten Israel following its bloody October 7 rampage, which ignited the war.

More than half the territory’s 2.3 million Palestinians have fled their homes, with hundreds of thousands sheltering in packed United Nations (UN)-run schools-turned-shelters or in hospitals alongside thousands of wounded patients.

Israeli strikes have hit closer to several northern hospitals in recent days, alarming medics.

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees, known as UNRWA, said nearly 672,000 Palestinians are sheltering in its schools and other facilities – four times their capacity. Thousands of people broke into its aid warehouses over the weekend to take food, as supplies of basic goods have dwindled. There has been no central electricity in Gaza for weeks, and Israel has barred the entry of fuel needed to power emergency generators for hospitals and homes.

Palestinians watch a bulldozer trying to remove a destroyed car after an Israeli strike on the Gaza Strip in Rafah. PHOTO: AP