Israel intensified airstrikes across central and southern Gaza on Wednesday despite the Jewish state’s pledge to scale back the war in the so-called “safe” section after securing victory in the north.
Israeli Defense Forces took out Hamas bases in central Gaza while securing the regions around Khan Younis, southern Gaza’s largest city, as fighting continues to rage on more than three months into the war.
Israel had pledged to reduce its presence in Gaza after decimating Hamas’ northern forces.
Instead, constant airstrikes have hampered humanitarian efforts aimed at delivering food and medicine to hundreds of thousands of displaced Palestinians sheltering in the south.
The World Health Organization announced Wednesday that it had canceled its latest medical mission in Gaza due to security concerns. It was the sixth cancellation over the past two weeks.
“Intense bombardment, restrictions on movement, fuel shortage and interrupted communications make it impossible for WHO and our partners to reach those in need,” Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a news conference.
The decision to nix the aid mission came as the Palestinian Red Crescent revealed four of its medics were killed by an Israeli airstrike in central Gaza.
Video of the Red Crescent medical crew breaking down into tears over the death of their colleagues has been uploaded on social media and drawing criticism against the IDF’s airstrike campaign.
Israeli officials have previously dismissed humanitarian groups’ concerns over the airstrikes’ impact on aid efforts in Gaza. The IDF has yet to respond to allegations that it hit the Red Crescent staffers.
Hospitals in Gaza have also continued to be overwhelmed by the number of civilians injured by the airstrikes, with Save the Children – an international aid group – revealing Sunday that more than 10 children on average have lost one or both legs since the war began.
More than 23,000 Palestinians have been killed in the conflict so far, with nearly 60,000 others injured, according to the Hamas-run Ministry of Health, which does not differentiate between terrorists and civilians.
Israel has said it would not suspend the war effort in Gaza until all of Hamas is destroyed, with officials recently touting that the terror group no longer has the same grip of power on the Palestinian enclave as it did before Oct. 7.
“Today, there is no effective Hamas rule in a large part of the Gaza Strip,” Israeli war cabinet member Benny Gantz said in a news conference.
“If any of the abductees are watching us now, it is important for you to know — we are doing everything so that you return to your loved ones who never stop fighting for you,” Gantz added.
His statements came hours before a war cabinet meeting where officials were expected to mull the latest hostage negotiation proposal by Qatari allies.
The deal allegedly calls for the more than 130 hostages still in Gaza to be released in exchange for both Israel and Hamas’ permanent exit from the Palestinian enclave.
Despite Hamas’ previous statement that it would not release its hostages until Israel frees every Palestinian it has in its prison system, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the terror group will participate in the renewed talks.
“We succeeded before in the midst of this conflict in getting more than a hundred hostages out, and it’s my belief that they can and will engage on this, and that’s something we’re intensely focused on with Qatar and with Egypt,” Blinken said in an NBC interview aired Wednesday.
The top US diplomat has been on his fourth tour of the region since the war began with a focus on advancing the hostage deal and preventing the war from spreading as conflicts flare with Iranian-backed terror groups in both Lebanon and the Red Sea.
Blinken warned that there would be “consequences” against the Houthi terror group, who have continued to coordinate terror attacks in the Red Sea in support of Hamas.
The terrorist launched their largest attack to date on Tuesday, which caused three US Navy destroyers to take out 21 missiles and drones that were deployed against ships in the area.
No injuries or damage were reported, according to the US Central Command, which noted that it was the 26th attack by the Iran-backed Houthi militants in the Red Sea since Nov. 19.
With Post wires