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Thousands of Palestinians forced to flee as Israelis continue to attack Gaza City

ISRAELI forces continued its assault on Gaza City today, forcing thousands of Palestinians to flee for safety.

This comes as talks aimed at securing a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas appear to be making progress.

The Israeli military said its latest attack on the Gaza Strip’s largest city was meant to weed out militants from an area already ravaged in the early weeks of the nine-month-long war.

Israel claimed to have seized control of the city months ago. But Hamas appears to have been able to maintain a military capability in the city and have forced the Israelis to return.

Heavy fighting in the area in the initial weeks of the war all but emptied out Gaza City and its environs, and the Israeli military has prevented most people from returning to their homes there. 

But several hundred thousands of Palestinians remain in the area, living in what’s left of their homes or in makeshift shelters. 

“We fled in the darkness amid heavy strikes,” said Sayeda Abdel-Baki, a mother of three children who was sheltering at her relatives’ home in the Daraj neighbourhood of Gaza City. “This is my fifth displacement.”

Residents reported artillery and tank fire in the area, as well as air strikes. The Gaza Health Ministry, which has limited access to northern Gaza, did not immediately report casualties. 

The fighting comes as Israel and Hamas appeared to be the closest they have been in months to agreeing to a ceasefire deal that would bring a pause in the war in exchange for the release of dozens of Israelis held hostage by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

But obstacles remained, even after Hamas agreed days ago to relent on its key demand that Israel commit to ending the war as part of any agreement. 

Hamas wants the deal to include a “guarantee” that negotiations conclude with a permanent ceasefire deal.

The current draft reportedly says that the mediators — the United States, Qatar and Egypt — “will do their best” to ensure that the negotiations lead to an agreement to wind down the war.

That could remain a sticking point for Israel, which has rejected any deal that would force it to end the war with Hamas still intact — a condition reiterated Sunday by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

More than 38,000 Palestinians have been killed by the Israelis since it launched its retaliation for the surprise October 7 attack by Hamas. About 1,200 people were killed during the attack and some 250 taken hostage. 

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