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Gaza bombed as fallout brings tensions to Lebanon, Yemen

GAZA STRIP (AFP) – Israel bombed and shelled Gaza on Saturday, witnesses and first responders said, with fallout from the war bringing a resurgence of tensions to the Lebanon border and Yemen.

In the ninth month of war between Palestinian Hamas militants and Israeli forces, the Civil Defence agency in Gaza City, in the territory’s north, reported 10 bodies recovered from Israeli strikes on three separate homes.

In Rafah, in Gaza’s far south near Egypt, witnesses reported clashes between militants and Israeli troops in the city’s west, and artillery fire towards a refugee camp in the city centre. AFPTV images showed streets largely deserted.

The United Nations says about one million people have been displaced from Rafah since early May, when the Zionist regime began ground operations in pursuit of Hamas militants.

The regime’s military has also been operating in central Gaza, where on Friday at a hospital in Deir al-Balah city a middle-aged man wept over the body of a younger man. Blood soaked through a white cloth around his neck.

The war began after Hamas’ October 7 attack on southern Israel, which resulted in the deaths of 1,194 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.

A young Palestinian transporting water walks past a destroyed mosque in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip. PHOTO: AFP

The militants also seized 251 hostages. Of these, 116 remain in Gaza, although the army says 41 are dead due to Israeli strikes.

The oppressors’ retaliatory offensive has killed at least 37,266 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-ruled territory.

Fears of a broader Middle East conflict have surged again, with Lebanon-based Hezbollah fighters, who are backed by Iran and allied with Hamas, launching waves of rockets and drones against Israeli military targets.

Hezbollah said intense strikes since Wednesday were retaliation for Israel’s killing of one of its commanders.

Israeli forces responded with shelling, the military said, also announcing air strikes on Hezbollah infrastructure across the border.

Two women were killed in a strike on Jannata in southern Lebanon, village official Hassan Shur said, the latest deaths in near-daily exchanges of fire between Hezbollah and the Israeli military since the Gaza war began.

Truce talks rejected

French President Emmanuel Macron said this week that his country and the United States would work separately with Israeli and Lebanese authorities to ease tensions. Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant rejected the initiative, decrying “hostile policies against Israel” by France, which last month had barred Israeli firms from an arms trade show.

The Israeli prime minister’s office and senior foreign ministry officials distanced themselves from Gallant’s comments.

During a Middle East trip this week to push a Gaza truce plan, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said “the best way” to help resolve the Hezbollah-Israel violence was “a resolution of the conflict in Gaza and getting a ceasefire”.

That has not happened.

At a summit of the G7 group of advanced economies in Italy, US President Joe Biden called Hamas “the biggest hang-up so far” to reaching a Gaza truce and hostage release deal.

Hamas has insisted on the complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza and a permanent ceasefire – demands Israel has repeatedly rejected.

Blinken has said Israel backs the latest plan, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose far-right coalition partners are strongly opposed, has not publicly endorsed it.

The Gaza war’s only truce, one week in November, saw hostages freed and Palestinian prisoners held by Israel released.

World Food Programme deputy executive director Carl Skau said that “with lawlessness inside the Strip… and active conflict”, it has become “close to impossible to deliver the level of aid that meets the growing demands on the ground”.

“More than anything, people want this war to end,” he said after a two-day visit to Gaza. 

People perform the Friday prayer in front of a destroyed mosque in Khan Yunis. PHOTO: AFP