Palestinians pull out of war zone in northern Gaza, Israel opens window for safe passage

KHAN YOUNIS, Gaza Strip (AP) — Thousands of Palestinians ran and fled on Gaza’s only highway Friday. A war zone in the north After Israel announced a window for safe passage, enclave officials said the Palestinian death toll had surpassed 11,000.

Amid an intensified campaign of airstrikes and ground battles in Gaza City, the search for safety in the besieged enclave has grown increasingly desperate. Tens of thousands have walked south, where they continue to face bombing and attacks Bad conditions. Others are clustered in and around hospitals, sleeping in operating rooms and wards.

Gaza medical officials blamed Israel for strikes near hospitals on Friday, though Israel said at least one was the result of a Palestinian rocket.

Gaza’s largest city is at the center of Israel’s ongoing campaign to crush Hamas The deadly October 7 surprise invasion.

Battles around hospitals

Early on Friday, Israel struck the courtyard and maternity ward of Shifa Hospital, where tens of thousands of people have taken refuge, said Ashraf al-Kitra, spokesman for the health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza. A video from the scene recorded the sound of incoming fire waking people in their makeshift shelters in the courtyard, followed by screams for an ambulance.

The Israeli military has accused Hamas of hiding in and under hospitals and setting up a command center under Shifa – a claim denied by the militant group and hospital staff.

Shifa’s director said Israel had requested the evacuation of the facility, but he said there was nowhere for such a large number of patients to go.

“Where are we going to get them out?” Director Mohammad Abu Selmia asked in an interview with Al Jazeera TV.

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The Ministry of Health later said one person was killed and several others were injured in Shifa. Another strike near Al-Nasr Medical Center, which includes two children’s hospitals, killed two people, the ministry said.

In all, Gaza health officials said strikes were carried out near four hospitals overnight and early Friday morning.

A senior Israeli security official said preliminary findings indicated that an attack in Shifa was the result of errant firing by militants. The Army is investigating. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.

In Shifa, families sleep in hospital rooms, emergency rooms, operating theaters and the maternity ward — or outside on the streets, said Wafa Abu Hajjaj, a Palestinian journalist at the hospital and many others who recently left.

Daily food distributions once helped small numbers, but remain No bread in recent days, they said. Water is scarce and generally polluted, and few can bathe.

Margaret Harris, a spokeswoman for the World Health Organization, said 20 of Gaza’s 36 hospitals were not functioning, including a children’s hospital receiving treatment such as dialysis and life support — “things where you can’t get them out safely.”

Civilians are fleeing from the south

More than two-thirds of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have fled their homes since the war began. On Friday, a steady flow of civilians used both sides of Gaza’s main north-south highway.

Parents walked with small children, some evacuees crammed into covered donkey carts with belongings piled on the roof, others rode bicycles.

Since last weekend, the Israeli army has set aside several hours a day for civilians to escape from northern Gaza, and on Friday announced a six-hour window.

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A day earlier, the White House agreed to implement a Israel A short humanitarian pause each day – Seemed to be an attempt to formalize and expand the process. The White House said Israel has also agreed to open a second route for those leaving.

In total, Israel estimates that more than 850,000 of the 1.1 people in northern Gaza have left, according to military spokesman Jonathan Conricus, who called the pauses “quick humanitarian windows” that allow movement south “while we fight.”

Francesca Albanese, the UN expert on the Palestinian territories, called the pauses “cynical and cruel”, saying “to let people breathe and remember what life sounds like without bombing before they start bombing again”.

Rising death toll

Gaza’s health ministry says more than 10,800 Palestinians have been killed since the war began. No distinction was made between civilian and militant deaths. Another 2,650 people are missing.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said on Friday that “far too many” Palestinians had died and were injured, and that while Israel’s recent measures to reduce civilian casualties were positive, they were not enough.

While U.S. President Joe Biden and others have challenged the Gaza health ministry’s figures as exaggerated, Assistant Secretary of State Barbara Leaf told U.S. lawmakers this week that it was “highly possible.”

More than 1,400 people have been killed in Israel, mainly in the initial Hamas offensive, and 41 Israeli soldiers have been killed in Gaza since the ground offensive began.

Palestinian militants have continued to fire rockets into Israel, and at least two people were wounded in an attack on Tel Aviv on Friday, said Yossi Elkabetz, a paramedic with Israel’s rescue services. Hamas claimed credit.

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About 250,000 Israelis Forced out Israeli forces and Hezbollah fighters from communities near Gaza and along Lebanon’s northern border. Repeated fire trading.

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Mroue from Beirut and Rising report from Bangkok. Associated Press writers Nick Perry in Wellington, New Zealand, Jamie Keaton in Geneva and Julia Frankel in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

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Full AP coverage https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war.

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