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Israeli military says nine soldiers killed in Gaza
JERUSALAM: The Israeli military said on Tuesday nine more soldiers had been killed in Gaza, bringing its total war losses there to 187.
Most of the latest fatalities were from engineering units operating against Hamas tunnels in south and central Gaza, where Israel has shifted the focus of fighting after declaring the Palestinian Islamist group dismantled in the north on Saturday.
Earlier on Tuesday, the military said four soldiers had been killed. The updated figure of nine, all killed on Monday, followed notification of families.
HEZBOLLAH HITS ISRAELI BASE WITH DRONES IN RESPONSE TO KILLINGS
Hezbollah launched explosive drones at an army base in northern Israel on Tuesday, declaring the attack part of its response to recent Israeli assassinations in Lebanon, as sources reported three Hezbollah fighters killed in an Israeli strike.
The group said its drones had hit the Israeli army headquarters in Safed as part of retaliation for last week’s killing of deputy Hamas leader Saleh al-Arouri in Beirut, and in response to Monday’s killing of a Hezbollah commander.
A source familiar with Hezbollah operations said it marked the first time the group had attacked Safed, some 14 km (8 miles) from the border, during hostilities that began three months ago after Hamas attacked Israel from the Gaza Strip.
An Israeli army spokesperson said a northern base was hit in an aerial attack but there had been no damage or casualties. The spokesperson did not say precisely where the incident occurred.
More than 130 Hezbollah fighters have been killed in Lebanon during the hostilities with Israel, their worst confrontation since they went to war in 2006. The violence has forced tens of thousands of people to flee homes on both sides of the border, and has raised concern the conflict could intensify and spread further.
The three Hezbollah fighters killed on Tuesday died in a strike on their vehicle in the town of Ghandouriyeh in the south of Lebanon, the sources said, without identifying them.
In a statement, the Israeli military said its air force attacked Hezbollah targets in Kila – an apparent reference to the Lebanese border village of Kfar Kila – and a drone squad belonging to the group elsewhere in southern Lebanon.
The Hezbollah commander killed on Monday, Wissam Tawil, was a commander in Hezbollah’s elite Radwan forces and the most senior Hezbollah officer killed so far in the conflict. He had played a leading role in directing its operations in the south.
BLINKEN CARRIES ARAB MESSAGE TO ISRAEL: KEEP PALESTINIAN STATE HOPE ALIVE
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, on his latest mission to rein in the Gaza war, told Israeli leaders on Tuesday there was still a chance of winning acceptance from their Arab neighbours, if they create a path to a viable Palestinian state.
On his fourth trip to the region since October in a so far largely fruitless quest to tamp down the violence, Blinken said he would share what he had heard in two days of talks with Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.
His talks would include a meeting with the Israeli war cabinet formed in the wake of the Oct. 7 attacks by Palestinian militants from Hamas, which rules Gaza, that Israel says killed 1,200 people.
The Israeli offensive has killed more than 23,000 Palestinians, destroyed much of Gaza and displaced most of the population of 2.3 million at least once, creating a dramatic and worsening humanitarian crisis.
Blinken had already said he would press Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government on the “absolute imperative” to do more to protect Gaza’s civilians and allow humanitarian aid to reach them. His boss, President Joe Biden, said overnight that Washington was quietly pushing Israel to begin withdrawing some of its forces.
Blinken’s meetings around the region have focused on trying to chart a longer-term approach to the decades-old Israel-Palestinian conflict, as part of a path toward ending the Gaza war. After his meetings with Arab allies, he said they wanted integration with Israel – a long-term Israeli aim – but only if that included a “practical pathway” to a Palestinian state.
“I know of your own efforts, over many years, to build much greater connectivity and integration in the Middle East, and I think there are actually real opportunities there,” he told his Israeli counterpart Israel Katz on Tuesday.
“But we have to get through this very challenging moment and ensure that October 7 can never happen again and work to build a much different and much better future.”
HEAVY FIGHTING IN SOUTH GAZA
After weeks of U.S. pressure to tamp down its assault, Israel says its forces are transitioning from full-blown warfare to a more targeted campaign in the northern half of Gaza, while still maintaining intensive combat in southern areas.
It said troops had killed around 40 Palestinian fighters and raided a militant compound and tunnel shafts since Monday during expanded operations in Khan Younis in the south.
The Palestinian health ministry in Gaza said 57 Palestinians killed by Israeli air strikes and 65 wounded had arrived in the past 24 hours at the already badly overstretched Al Aqsa hospital in the centre of the 45 km (28 mile) long Gaza Strip.
The vast humanitarian crisis has put pressure in particular on the United States, Israel’s closest ally, to press for the assault on Gaza to be scaled back.
The U.N. humanitarian office OCHA said that “as casualties rise, the ability to treat them continues to be in jeopardy”.
It said three hospitals in central Gaza and Khan Younis, including Al Aqsa, were “at risk of closure due to the issuance of evacuation orders in nearby areas and the ongoing conduct of hostilities nearby”.
BIDEN HEARS SHOUTS OF ‘CEASEFIRE NOW’
Late on Monday, the medical charity MSF said a shell had broken through the wall of one of its shelters in Khan Younis housing over 100 staff and their families, critically wounding the 5-year-old daughter of an MSF staffer.
Biden, confronted on Monday by protesters shouting “Ceasefire now!” while visiting a church in South Carolina, said he had been “quietly” working to encourage Israel to ease its attacks and “significantly get out of Gaza”.
Israel’s relentless bombardment and its restrictions on humanitarian access to Gaza have prompted South Africa to file a lawsuit in the International Court of Justice, accusing Israel of genocidal actions against Palestinians. Hearings are due to begin on Thursday.
Israeli President Isaac Herzog told Blinken there was “nothing more atrocious and preposterous” than the court case, noting that Israel’s Hamas enemies are sworn to its destruction.
The conflict has spread to Lebanon, where the Hezbollah militia has been firing rockets across the Israeli border in support of Hamas. Both groups are supported by Iran, Israel’s sworn enemy.
Three members of Hezbollah were killed on Tuesday in a strike on their vehicle in south of Lebanon, two sources familiar with the group’s operations told Reuters, after a top Hezbollah commander was killed in the area on Monday.
Hezbollah said it had launched a drone attack against Israeli command headquarters in response to the killings of senior Hezbollah figure Wissam Tawil and of deputy Hamas leader Saleh al-Arouri in Beirut last week. Israel has neither confirmed nor denied responsibility for the attacks.
Hezbollah deputy leader Naim Qassem, in a televised speech on Tuesday, said his group did not want to expand the war from Lebanon, “but if Israel expands (it), the response is inevitable to the maximum extent required to deter Israel”.
Medics, patients flee Gaza’s southern hospitals as fighting intensifies -WHO
World Health Organization officials voiced concern on Tuesday about the possible collapse of hospitals in southern Gaza as the conflict intensifies around the city of Khan Younis, with many medical staff and patients fleeing for their lives.
“So what we’re seeing is really worrying around a lot of the hospitals and an intensification of hostilities, very close to the European Gaza hospital,” Sean Casey, WHO Emergency Medical Teams coordinator in Gaza, told a Geneva press briefing by video link.
“We are seeing the health system collapse at a very rapid pace,” he added, saying that an estimated 600 patients had fled one facility.