Israeli forces press Gaza offensive from north and south

Hundreds of thousands of people are fleeing again, say aid workers.

CAIRO (Reuters): Israeli forces pushed deep into the ruins of Gaza’s northern edge on Monday to recapture an area from Hamas fighters.

In the south, tanks and troops pushed across a highway into Rafah, leaving Palestinian civilians scrambling to find safety.

Some of the most intense fighting for weeks is raging in both the north and south. Israeli operations in Rafah, which borders Egypt, have closed a main crossing point for aid. Humanitarian groups say this has worsened an already dire situation.

Hundreds of thousands of people are fleeing again. Around half of Gaza’s population took sanctuary there after Israel ordered evacuations from northern Gaza in October.

Gaza’s health authority appealed for international pressure to reopen access via the southern border to allow in aid, medical supplies and fuel to power generators and ambulances.

“The wounded and sick suffer a slow death because there is no treatment and supplies and they cannot travel,” it said.

A foreign U.N. security staff member was killed on Monday when a U.N.-marked vehicle travelling to a hospital in Rafah was struck – the first international U.N. fatality in the Gaza war, a U.N. spokesperson said, bringing the total death toll of U.N. personnel to around 190.

In northern Gaza’s Jabalia, a sprawling refugee camp built for displaced Palestinians 75 years ago, Israeli forces pushed into an area where they claimed to have dismantled Hamas months ago.

Residents fled along rubble-strewn streets carrying bags of belongings. Tank shells landed in the centre of the camp and health officials said they had recovered 20 bodies from overnight airstrikes.

“We don’t know where to go. We have been displaced from one place to the next… We are running in the streets. I saw it with my own eyes. I saw the tank and the bulldozer. It is on that street,” said one woman, who did not give her name.

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