Israeli Forces Intensify Gaza Offensive Amid Ceasefire Negotiations

Israeli Forces Intensify Gaza Offensive Amid Ceasefire Negotiations

The Israeli forces pushed deeper into Gaza City against regrouped militants as thousands of Palestinians fled. The conflict has displaced families and residents of all ages among the 2.3 million population, with many having to move several times and often ending up in an overcrowded tent camp. Early evacuations ordered by Israel in northern Gaza still find many Palestinians sheltering in place. Sayeda Abdel-Baki, a mother of three, said she fled heavy strikes for the fifth time in her life.

The latest military actions, according to Hamas, may put at risk the already fragile negotiations over a cease-fire and hostage release. The Israeli military ordered evacuations further south into central Gaza City, citing new intelligence on militants from Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Residents reported intense artillery, tank fire, and airstrikes, though casualty counts were not immediately available from Gaza's Health Ministry, which has limited access.

Efforts for a ceasefire deal, closer than ever, meet new obstacles. CIA Director William Burns arrived in Cairo for talks, joined by an Israeli delegation, as Hamas showed flexibility in dropping a key demand that Israel end the war as part of the agreement, but insisted mediators had to ensure that negotiations result in a permanent ceasefire. But Israel would not accept any deal that left Hamas in charge, and it retained that stance, said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Hamas claimed Netanyahu was undermining the talks, and there would be "catastrophic consequences" if Israeli operations persisted in Gaza City. One of the central problems with the talks was a Hamas demand to be allowed to name high-profile prisoners to be freed in exchange for hostages, which Israel refused to agree to.

The humanitarian crisis only deepened within Gaza. Bombing and gunfire were so near to them that residents, including Maha Mahfouz and her children, fled without any order to evacuate. Many of the hospitals, including the Al-Ahli and Indonesian Hospital, were overwhelmed with injuries but had few supplies. Physicians, like Dr. Fadel Naeem and Dr. Marwan al-Sultan, testified that many of the patients were in dire need of surgery and intensive care.

The death toll from the war has topped 38,000 in Gaza, according to the Health Ministry, which does not differentiate between combatants and civilians. The conflict broke out after Hamas's cross-border raid on October 7 that killed 1,200 people — mainly civilians — in southern Israel, with some 250 hostages taken during the assault.

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