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Gaza: Khan Younis battle threatens biggest hospital still working


Israeli forces advanced into the southern Gaza Strip's main city on Thursday, pounding areas near the enclave's biggest functioning hospital, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed "many more months" of fighting until total victory is achieved.

The heaviest battle of the year was under way in Khan Younis, sheltering hundreds of thousands of people who fled the north earlier in the conflict, now in its fourth month.

Residents described heavy fighting and intense bombardment in the north and east of the city and, for the first time, in the west, where they said tanks had advanced to carry out a raid before withdrawing.

Khan Younis residents said on Thursday the fighting had come within a whisker of Nasser Hospital, the biggest hospital still working in the enclave. It has been receiving hundreds of wounded patients a day, crammed into wards and treated on the floors, since the fighting shifted to the south last month.

"What is happening in Khan Younis now is complete madness: the occupation bombards the city in all directions, from the air and the ground too," said Abu El-Abed, 45, now living in Khan Younis after being displaced several times with his family of seven since leaving Gaza City in the north earlier in the conflict.

Israeli officials have accused Hamas fighters of operating from Nasser Hospital, which staff deny.

In an update on progress, Netanyahu said the Israel Defense Forces had destroyed "16 or 17" out of 24 of Hamas' organized combat regiments, adding the next step would be "clearing the territory" of militants.

"The first action is usually shorter, the second usually takes longer," Netanyahu said at a news briefing.

"Victory will take many more months but we are determined to achieve it."

The charity Medecins Sans Frontieres, which has doctors at the city's Nasser Hospital, said patients and displaced people sheltering there were fleeing in panic.

In Rafah, further south, where more than half of Gaza's 2.3 million people are now crammed into a small city by the Egyptian border, 16 bodies were laid out on the bloodstained cobbles outside a morgue, most in white shrouds, a few in body bags.

Gaza health authorities said on Thursday the death toll in the enclave had risen to 24,620, with many more feared buried under the rubble. More than 170 were killed in the past 24 hours. Israel claims it has killed 9,000 Hamas fighters.

(Cover: Palestinians wounded in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip are treated in a hospital in Khan Younis, January 15, 2024. /CFP)

Source(s): Reuters
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