In the midst of intense conflict, Israeli forces engaged Hamas militants in Gaza City on Thursday, navigating through buildings scarred by shell blasts. Simultaneously, representatives from around 80 countries and organisations convened in Paris to coordinate humanitarian aid and explore avenues to assist civilians trapped in the siege.
Residents in Gaza City reported ongoing battles between Israeli forces and Hamas, with tanks strategically positioned. The conflict escalated as Israeli forces approached two hospitals, where numerous displaced Palestinians sought refuge.
The Israeli military confirmed the advancement of its troops into the heart of Gaza City, Hamas’ primary stronghold and the largest city in the Palestinian coastal enclave. In response, Hamas claimed to have inflicted substantial losses on Israeli forces, releasing a video depicting intense street battles amidst the wreckage of Gaza City.
Israeli tanks encountered significant resistance from Hamas fighters utilising underground tunnels for ambushes, with sources from both Iran-backed Hamas and the Islamic Jihad militant group confirming this.
As the Israel-Hamas conflict entered its second month, the United States emphasised the necessity for Palestinians to govern Gaza once the war concludes. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken outlined Washington’s expectations, opposing Israeli suggestions of indefinite responsibility for Gaza’s security.
Blinken asserted, “No reoccupation of Gaza after the conflict ends. No attempt to blockade or besiege Gaza. No reduction in the territory of Gaza.” While acknowledging the potential for a transition period, he emphasised the importance of Palestinian-led governance and Gaza’s unification with the West Bank under the Palestinian Authority.
The Palestinian Authority asserts that Gaza is an integral part of its vision for a future Palestinian state. Israeli officials have clarified their intention not to occupy Gaza post-war but have yet to articulate plans for ensuring security without a military presence.
The conflict, triggered by a Hamas raid on southern Israel, has resulted in significant casualties. Palestinian officials reported 10,569 deaths, including 40% children, while Israel reported 33 of its soldiers killed.
Amid the ongoing conflict, a conference in Paris aimed to discuss measures to alleviate suffering in Gaza. Options included establishing a maritime corridor for shipping humanitarian aid and evacuating the wounded. However, with fighting continuing, expectations for a significant impact from the conference remained low.
Thousands of Palestinian civilians sought refuge from air strikes and ground fighting during a brief evacuation window announced by Israel. The displaced population faces overcrowded conditions in schools, hospitals, and other sites.
Israel attributes civilian casualties to Hamas, alleging the use of human shields and the concealment of arms in residential areas. The World Health Organisation warned of the heightened risk of infectious diseases due to disrupted services and overcrowding, reporting over 33,551 cases of diarrhoea, primarily among children under five, since mid-October.