Fighting rages in Gaza City’s Shejaiya for fourth day

Heavy battles and bombardment hit Gaza City’s Shejaiya district for a fourth day on Sunday, months after the Israeli army declared Hamas’s command structure dismantled in the northern area.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians have fled the devastated neighbourhood, where the army said it has fought Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants both “above and below ground” in tunnels.

The military said troops had “eliminated several terrorists, located weapons and conducted targeted raids on booby-trapped combat compounds” over the past 24 hours while the air force had “struck dozens” of the militants’ infrastructure sites.

It also reported clashes in central Gaza and the southern Rafah area, a week after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that the “intense phase” of the war raging since 7 October was nearing an end.

The United Nations humanitarian agency OCHA estimated that “60,000 to 80,000 people were displaced” from Shujaiya since new fighting broke out there on Thursday and the army issued evacuation orders.

Months of on-and-off talks towards a Gaza truce and hostage release deal have meanwhile made little progress, with Hamas saying Saturday there was “nothing new” in a revised plan presented by US mediators.

United States President Joe Biden late last month outlined what he called an Israeli plan for a six-week truce and exchange of some hostages for Palestinian prisoners held in Israel.

Washington last week presented “new language” for parts of the proposed deal, according to US news site Axios.

A Hamas official in Lebanon, Osama Hamdan, confirmed that the movement had received the latest proposal but said it presented “no real progress in the negotiations to stop the aggression”.

Hamdan labelled the proposals “a waste of time” that aimed to give “additional time for the occupation (Israel) to practise genocide”.

Six more people were killed in an air strike at dawn targeting a family house in Rafah, said medics at Nasser Hospital where the bodies were taken.

Artillery shelling also struck southern areas of Rafah city, witnesses said.

United Nations and other relief agencies have voiced alarm over the dire humanitarian crisis and threat of starvation the war and Israeli siege have brought for Gaza’s 2.4 million people.

“It’s really unbearable,” said Louise Wateridge from UNRWA, the UN agency supporting Palestinian refugees, speaking Friday after returning to the city of Khan Younis.

“Everything is rubble,” she said. “And yet people are living there again… There’s no water there, there’s no sanitation, there’s no food. And now, people are living back in these buildings that are empty shells.”

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