The Israeli military has intensified its operations in the southern region of the Gaza Strip, specifically near Khan Younis, marking a significant escalation in its ongoing campaign. This development comes as an Israeli commander indicated nearing the completion of their mission in Gaza’s northern areas.
According to eyewitness accounts reported by AFP, Israeli forces, including tanks, armored personnel carriers, and bulldozers, were observed along the southern part of Gaza’s main arterial road. These forces were reportedly engaging in combat actions, including firing at vehicles and individuals in the area.
The military advancement follows Israel’s significant control over northern Gaza, achieved in November. The recent push into the southern half has been swift, following the breakdown of a week-long truce last Friday. The armed wing of Hamas ally Islamic Jihad has reportedly been involved in intense battles with Israeli forces in the vicinity of Khan Younis, a major city in southern Gaza.
Residents have informed Reuters of Israeli tanks crossing the border into Gaza and severing the key north-south route. The Israeli military has declared this central road out of Khan Younis as a battlefield, effectively closing it off.
The United Nations has raised alarm over the escalating situation. Lynn Hastings, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories, warned of an impending “even more hellish scenario” in Gaza, where humanitarian efforts could come to a complete standstill. She emphasized the lack of safe havens in Gaza, pointing out the severe limitations in delivering aid under the current conditions.
In response to these developments, UN Secretary-General António Guterres has made an urgent appeal to Israel. He urged the avoidance of actions that would exacerbate the humanitarian crisis in Hamas-controlled Gaza and called for the protection of civilians from further suffering.