Battles between the Israeli army and Hamas focused on Wednesday in Gaza City in the northern besieged Strip after the war entered its second month, while Qatar is leading mediation efforts to release a number of hostages held by the Palestinian movement in exchange for a temporary truce.
Israel announced that its army is now in the heart of Gaza City, while aerial and artillery bombardments intensify, which have so far claimed 10,569 dead, including 4,324 children and 2,823 women, in addition to wounding 26,475 citizens, according to the Ministry of Health in Gaza.
In addition to the death and destruction that surrounds them from all sides, the Palestinians suffer from a major shortage of water, especially food, and medicines, while hospitals in need of fuel continue to suffer.
Footage taken by an Agence France-Presse correspondent showed a number of residents still in Gaza City, queuing in front of tanks in order to obtain water.
On Wednesday, the Israeli army distributed video footage of its ground operations, showing military tanks and bulldozers advancing amid almost completely destroyed buildings.
The footage showed soldiers entering some buildings that had been pierced by shells and bullets, while sounds of explosions were heard.
For its part, al Qassam Brigades announced in a statement that its fighters were able on Wednesday to completely or partially destroy 16 military vehicles in various combat axes.
It also spoke of sniper operations and targeting of invading forces with mortar shells.
In the midst of the battles, sources confirmed to Agence France-Presse that Qatar is leading efforts to release a number of prisoners held by Hamas in exchange for a truce of one or two days.
A source familiar with the mediation told AFP on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the talks, Negotiations are underway, mediated by Qatar, in coordination with the United States, to secure the release of 10 to 15 hostages in exchange for a ceasefire for a day or two in Gaza.
A source close to the Hamas movement confirmed the existence of negotiations on a three-day humanitarian pause in exchange for the release of 12 hostages, half of whom are Americans.
The source confirmed that progress on the truce currently depends on the duration of the truce and the northern Gaza Strip, which is witnessing large-scale combat operations, pointing out that Qatar is waiting for the Israeli response.
Israeli war cabinet Security Minister Yoav Galant said on Tuesday night in a televised speech, “Fuel won’t be allowed to enter, and there will be no ceasefire without the release of our hostages”.
On the other hand, al Qassam Brigades spokesman Abu Obaida confirmed in a video speech on Wednesday that the prisoners exchange issue is present and the only path is a complete or partial deal to release the prisoners.
Likewise, Abu Obaida said, “The Israeli enemy refuses to create conditions for the release of prisoners and has thwarted the process of releasing 12 of them in recent days”.
The United Nations, non-governmental organizations, leaders of the Arab world and other countries are calling for a ceasefire, an idea that is not supported by Washington, which is pushing for a humanitarian ceasefire and stresses Israel’s right to defend itself.
Meanwhile, a coalition of 13 relief groups, including Doctors Without Borders, Amnesty International, and Oxfam, urged world leaders to press for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, a month after the outbreak of war between Israel and Hamas.
The UN Commissioner described what he saw at the Rafah crossing, saying, “I saw the gates leading to that ongoing nightmare… A nightmare in which people suffocate under continuous bombardment, cry over the loss of their families, and struggle in search of water, food, electricity, and fuel”.
Israeli army spokesman Daniel Hagari confirmed on Wednesday evening that 50,000 Palestinians had left northern Gaza within 24 hours, while a US official estimated a few days ago that about 350,000 people were still in the north.
The violent bombing operations led to the displacement of 1.5 million people inside the Strip, according to the United Nations.
On Wednesday, Hamas accused the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) of colluding with Israel in the forced displacement of Gaza’s residents.
The Israeli bombing targeted a huge number of buildings in the Gaza Strip, which led to the destruction or damage of 45% of all housing units, according to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, Balakrishnan Rajagopal.
The UN rapporteur considered that carrying out hostilities with the knowledge that they will systematically destroy and damage civilian housing and infrastructure, rendering an entire city – such as Gaza City – uninhabitable for civilians is a war crime.
Likewise, the International Committee of the Red Cross warned that the intense bombardment is destroying civilian infrastructure throughout Gaza, sowing the seeds of misery for generations to come.
In recent days, officials and media have been discussing possible scenarios for managing Gaza if Israel succeeds in achieving its goal of eliminating Hamas.
In this regard, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken stressed on Wednesday that Israel shouldn’t reoccupy Gaza.
He explained that it includes not forcibly displacing Palestinians from the Gaza Strip, not now or after the war, not using Gaza as a platform for terrorism or other violent attacks, and not reoccupying Gaza after the conflict.
In Gaza, a Palestinian official announced that no injured Palestinians or persons with dual citizenship were evacuated from the Gaza Strip to Egypt via the Rafah crossing on Wednesday, in the second halt in evacuations since the beginning of November.