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Israel expanded its ground operations in Gaza, bombed targets in Syria and carried out a raid in the occupied West Bank overnight, as its war with Hamas militants sent tensions rising across the Middle East.
The Israeli military said on Monday that it had killed dozens of Hamas militants in fighting in Gaza and bombed “military infrastructure” in Syria in response to “launches” from the country.
Israeli forces also carried out a raid in the city of Jenin in the north of the West Bank. Palestinian health ministry officials said four Palestinians had been killed in the ensuing gun battle.
Late on Sunday, Israeli forces struck targets in Lebanon after rockets were fired deeper into northern Israel than at any point since the outbreak of fighting between Hamas and Israel on October 7.
The multi-front flare-up came as diplomats scrambled to prevent the hostilities between Israel and Hamas from spilling over into a broader regional conflict, with the US deploying extra resources to the Middle East and warning Iran and its proxies to stay out of the fighting.
The Israel Defense Forces said on Monday that it had hit more than 600 targets in Gaza in recent days, including weapons depots, anti-tank missile launching posts and hide-outs used by Hamas militants, as it continued to build up its ground operations in the coastal enclave.
Daniel Hagari, IDF spokesperson, said on Sunday night that the forces were “advancing through the stages of the war” and issued an “urgent call” for civilians to leave the north of the Gaza Strip, where Israel has so far concentrated its ground operations, and evacuate to areas closer to the border with Egypt.
Israel has been pounding the impoverished enclave since Hamas militants carried out the deadliest attack on Israeli soil on October 7, killing more than 1,400 people and taking more than 230 hostages, according to Israeli officials, in an assault that sent shockwaves through the Jewish state.
The Israeli bombardment has killed more than 8,000 people in Gaza and injured more than 20,000, according to Palestinian officials. Israel has also severely limited supplies of electricity, water, fuel and food to the enclave, prompting aid agencies to warn of a burgeoning humanitarian catastrophe.
In a call with Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday night, US president Joe Biden emphasised the need to “immediately and significantly increase the flow of humanitarian assistance” to civilians in Gaza, the White House said.
A UN spokesperson said 47 truckloads of aid had entered Gaza on Sunday, the most in a single day since October 21, bringing the total to 131 since that date. However, aid agencies have criticised Israel for refusing to allow bigger consignments, pointing out that the amount delivered so far was a fraction of the 500 trucks a day that arrived before October 7.
In a sign of the mounting desperation in Gaza, UNRWA, the main UN agency providing relief in the territory, said thousands of Palestinians were breaking into its warehouses to seize wheat flour and other staples.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said thousands of families in Gaza were “sleeping in makeshift shelters or out in the open with little food and water”. It said hospitals were on the verge of collapse and wastewater plants were no longer functioning.