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Intensifying conflict in Gaza as Netanyahu rejects calls for cease-fire

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The conflict in Gaza escalated as Israeli ground forces advanced deeper into the territory’s main city, freeing a captive soldier and clashing with Hamas militants. Despite international calls for a cease-fire, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu firmly rejected the idea, and airstrikes struck dangerously close to hospitals where thousands of Palestinians sought refuge.

On Tuesday, the Israeli military announced the killing of Nasim Abu Ajina, a key figure in the October 7 Hamas attack in Israel, stating that his death significantly hindered Hamas’ resistance against Israeli ground forces. The military also celebrated the rescue of Pvt. Ori Megidish, a soldier held captive since the October 7 incursion, who was reported to be in good condition and reunited with her family.

Prime Minister Netanyahu, resolute in his commitment to free all hostages, stood firm in his rejection of a cease-fire, citing it as a form of surrender to Hamas. Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, an Israeli military spokesman, confirmed the entry of additional forces into Gaza, emphasizing that operations would continue to expand and intensify.

The Israeli military reported the elimination of dozens of militants hiding in buildings and tunnels, targeting over 600 militant positions, including weapon depots and anti-tank missile launch sites. Simultaneously, Palestinian militants continued launching rockets into Israel, including towards Tel Aviv.

Hamas claimed clashes with Israeli forces who entered from the northwest, but the veracity of these reports remained unconfirmed. Netanyahu, facing mounting criticism over the surprise attack on Israel, vowed not to resign and emphasized the need to crush Hamas and its 16-year rule over Gaza.

Hamas and other militant groups hold around 240 captives, including men, women, and children. International pressure mounted on Netanyahu to secure their release, but negotiations remained deadlocked. Hamas offered to release the captives in exchange for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel, an offer Israel rejected. Netanyahu suggested that the ground invasion might provide the pressure needed to secure their release.

Amid the crisis, a video purportedly showing three female captives under duress and criticizing Israel’s response emerged. The exact timing of the video’s production remained unclear.

The United States continued to provide weapons shipments to Israel, stating it did not place restrictions on how these weapons were used, leaving the decision to the Israeli Defense Force (IDF).

The Israeli military’s operations in Gaza were veiled in secrecy, and Israel had not declared an all-out ground invasion. Larger ground operations were launched north and east of Gaza City, where much of Hamas’ military infrastructure, including extensive tunnel networks, was believed to be concentrated.

Despite Israeli orders to evacuate, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians remained in the north of Gaza, including overcrowded hospitals in so-called safe zones. The UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, reported a dire situation with facilities stretched to four times their capacity.

The death toll among Palestinians exceeded 8,300, with the majority being women and children, according to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry. On the Israeli side, over 1,400 people died, mainly civilians during Hamas’ initial attack.

UNRWA head Philippe Lazzarini accused Israel of collective punishment and criticized the forced displacement of Palestinians. The deteriorating conditions and civilian casualties in Gaza raised concerns about the conflict’s regional spillover.

As conditions in Gaza worsened, hospitals struggled to maintain basic services with limited power and fuel. Humanitarian aid convoys arrived, but the supplies were insufficient for the population’s needs.

The violence in Gaza also raised concerns of regional escalation, with daily skirmishes between Israel and Hezbollah along the northern border and increased rocket and drone attacks in Iraq and Syria attributed to Iran-backed forces.

In the occupied West Bank, clashes continued, resulting in casualties on both sides, further complicating the situation in the broader region.

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