Home News Middle East crisis: About 300,000 Gazans flee Rafah, UN says

Middle East crisis: About 300,000 Gazans flee Rafah, UN says

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Jabaliya, northern Gaza, February.Credit…Mahmoud Essa/AP

The Israeli military on Saturday ordered an evacuation of Jabaliya in northern Gaza and stepped up attacks there, it said in a statement as Hamas sought to “regroup its terrorist infrastructure and operatives in the area” “.

Israel invaded northern Gaza for the first time after the Hamas-led attack on October 7, seizing territory and pushing southward to seize Hamas strongholds. But many analysts say the military has yet to completely defeat Hamas and its return to Jabaliya is another sign that the war may continue.

The Israeli military said it succeeded in killing many of Hamas’ key commanders in Jabaliya, which Israel considers a stronghold and base of operations. However, Israeli forces have returned to the area several times in recent weeks, including to Gaza City’s Zeitoun neighborhoods and Beit Hanoun, claiming militants are once again operating there. The Israeli military said five soldiers were killed in northern Gaza on Friday, at least four of them by explosive devices.

On Saturday, hours after urging people to evacuate, the Israeli military said it had begun “attacks on Hamas terror targets in the Jabaliya area.”

In a statement, Hamas accused Israel of “escalating its aggression against civilians across Gaza” and vowed to keep fighting.

Israeli military analysts say Hamas’s apparent resurgence in northern Gaza is the result of Israel’s failure to establish any alternative government there, leaving a vacuum that has allowed the insurgency to resurgence. Michael Milstein, a former senior Israeli intelligence official, said Israeli forces swept through some areas, but when they inevitably retreated, Hamas reasserted its control either directly or through allies.

“Hamas still rules,” he said. “Their forces are severely damaged, but they are still capable. There are still no alternatives to Gaza, and every alternative we have tried to establish has failed.”

For months, the Israeli military claimed to have “disbanded” most of Hamas’s military battalions. But Israeli leaders also acknowledge that their troops will have to fight a protracted battle to suppress what Israeli Defense Minister Yov Galanter calls “small pockets of resistance.”

In late March, Israeli forces attacked Shifa Hospital, Gaza’s largest medical center, for the second time, claiming that the hospital had become a base for Hamas to try to reassert its rule in northern Gaza. According to the Israeli military, at least 200 people were killed there and hundreds were arrested.

The fighting left much of the hospital in ruins, and Palestinians who returned said they found bodies scattered in and around the hospital.

It’s unclear how many people heeded Israel’s warnings to leave Jabaliya. Resident Fatma Edaama, 36, has not yet left. She said Saturday she hoped the recent fighting would be limited enough to allow her to safely stay.

“Our lives ended in 2006,” when Hamas won Palestinian legislative elections, leading Israel to begin tightening restrictions on Gaza, she said, adding: “We had no safe place to go. Except Besides, most of the people in our family are elderly or sick. Where can we take them?

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