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Israel Orders Evacuation in Gaza       07/22 06:14

   

   DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip (AP) -- The Israeli military on Monday ordered the 
evacuation of part of an area in the Gaza Strip it has designated a 
humanitarian zone.

   The military said it is planning to begin an operation against Hamas 
militants who have embedded themselves in the area and used it to launch 
rockets toward Israel. The area includes the eastern part of the Muwasi 
humanitarian zone, which is located in the southern Gaza Strip.

   On Monday morning, thousands of Palestinians carrying backpacks and children 
walked down dusty roads under the scorching summer sun, navigating dilapidated 
cars filled with belongings tied on top. Many Palestinians have been uprooted 
multiple times in search of safety during Israeli's punishing air and ground 
campaign.

   "We do not know where we are walking," said Kholoud Al Dadas, as she 
clutched her children. "This is our seventh or eighth time we have been 
displaced. While we were sleeping in our homes, they started shooting at us, 
bombing from everywhere." Moments later, as she continued on her way, Al Dadas 
collapsed in exhaustion and people rushed to her aid.

   Earlier this month, Israel said it estimates at least 1.8 million 
Palestinians are now in the humanitarian zone it declared covering a stretch of 
about 14 kilometers (8.6 miles) along the Mediterranean. Much of that area is 
now blanketed with tent camps that lack sanitation and medical facilities and 
have limited access to aid, U.N. and humanitarian groups say. Families live in 
the midst of mountains of trash and streams contaminated by sewage.

   The announcement came during delicate negotiations seeking a cease-fire in 
Gaza, with U.S. and Israeli officials expressing hope that an agreement is 
closer than ever. A negotiating team will be sent to continue talks on 
Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said. Egypt, Qatar and the 
United States are continuing to push Israel and Hamas toward a phased 
cease-fire deal that would stop the fighting and free the hostages.

   Netanyahu left Monday morning on a much-anticipated trip to the United 
States to meet with President Joe Biden, who announced Sunday that he will not 
seek another term, and address Congress.

   Netanyahu said that regardless of who becomes the next U.S. president, "our 
enemies must know that Israel and the United States stand together tomorrow and 
always." He said he will thank Biden for more than 40 years of friendship, 
while also pushing him for more support on certain issues.

   The Israeli military said on Monday that it is continuing to operate in 
central and southern Gaza. One person was killed and three injured in a strike 
outside the Al Aqsa hospital in the central city of Deir-Al-Balah. Overnight, 
at least 15 people, including four women and six children, were killed in 
strikes in the southern city of Khan Younis, according to hospital officials 
and a body count by an Associated Press journalist. The Israeli military did 
not have immediate comment.

   The United Nations also accused Israel of targeting a U.N. humanitarian 
convoy in central Gaza. Philippe Lazzarini, the head of UNRWA, the main U.N. 
group supporting Palestinians in Gaza, said that on Sunday Israel shot at the 
convoy near an Israeli military checkpoint, and that five bullets pierced the 
clearly marked armored U.N. vehicle.

   Lazzarini said that the movement of the convoy had been coordinated with 
Israeli forces. No one was injured, but Lazzarini condemned the military for 
targeting humanitarian workers. The Israeli military did not immediately 
comment.

   The war in Gaza has killed more than 38,900 people, according to the 
territory's Health Ministry, which doesn't distinguish between combatants and 
civilians in its count. The war began with an assault by Hamas militants on 
southern Israel on Oct. 7 that killed 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and 
took about 250 hostages. About 120 remain held, about a third of them believed 
to be dead, according to Israeli authorities.

   The Israeli military announced the deaths on Monday of two additional 
Israeli hostages, saying they believe Yagev Buchshtab, 35, and Alex Dancyg, 76, 
who were kidnapped on Oct. 7, were no longer alive, based on intelligence.

   Netanyahu has vowed to wipe out Hamas' military and governing capabilities 
and secure the return of the remaining hostages. Families of hostages and 
thousands of other Israelis have held weekly demonstrations to urge the prime 
minister to reach a cease-fire deal that would bring their loved ones home.

   The already precarious humanitarian conditions inside besieged Gaza have 
worsened with the discovery of the polio virus as water and sanitation services 
have deteriorated for the territory's 2.3 million people, most of them 
displaced. Traces of the virus were found in sewage samples in Gaza. The World 
Health Organization has said no one has been treated for symptoms caused by the 
disease.

   Israel's military said soldiers would be vaccinated and it would work with 
organizations to bring in vaccines for Palestinians.

   Also Monday, Israeli police said a Canadian citizen was killed after 
threatening Israeli security forces with a knife near the Gaza border.

   The Israeli military said the man drove to the entrance of an Israeli town 
close to the border, left his vehicle and approached the security forces with a 
knife. The forces opened fire and killed the man. There were no other injuries.

   The attack took place at the entrance to the Israeli town of Netiv HaAsara, 
which is just 300 meters (yards) north of the Gaza border. On Oct. 7, Netiv 
HaAsara was attacked and 20 residents were killed after gunmen passed over the 
concrete border wall using paragliders, according to Israeli military officials.

   Israel has experienced a wave of stabbing attacks across the country during 
the nine-month war in Gaza.

 
 
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