ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 140

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UN official describes Gaza as 'hell on earth'

IDF troops in Gaza uncover arms, footage of Oct. 7 massacres as battles rage

Palestinians say military raided hospital in north Gaza amid exchanges of fire; rockets target Gaza border communities, Ashkelon

  • A picture taken in southern Israel near the border with the Gaza Strip on December 11, 2023, shows Israeli army soldier working on tanks. (Menahem KAHANA / AFP)
    A picture taken in southern Israel near the border with the Gaza Strip on December 11, 2023, shows Israeli army soldier working on tanks. (Menahem KAHANA / AFP)
  • Israeli troops in the Gaza Strip in an undated photograph released December 12, 2023 (Israel Defense Forces)
    Israeli troops in the Gaza Strip in an undated photograph released December 12, 2023 (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Israeli troops in the Gaza Strip in an undated photograph released December 12, 2023 (Israel Defense Forces)
    Israeli troops in the Gaza Strip in an undated photograph released December 12, 2023 (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Israeli troops in the Gaza Strip in an undated photograph released December 12, 2023 (Israel Defense Forces)
    Israeli troops in the Gaza Strip in an undated photograph released December 12, 2023 (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Smoke rises after an Israeli air strike on the city of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on December 12, 2023. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)
    Smoke rises after an Israeli air strike on the city of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on December 12, 2023. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)
  • A man bikes past a destroyed building bearing an inscription in Arabic that reads 'Omar and Usama Badawi under the rubble' in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on December 12, 2023, amid continuing battles between Israel and Hamas. (Mohammed Abed/AFP)
    A man bikes past a destroyed building bearing an inscription in Arabic that reads 'Omar and Usama Badawi under the rubble' in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on December 12, 2023, amid continuing battles between Israel and Hamas. (Mohammed Abed/AFP)

Israeli forces pressed their offensive against Hamas in Gaza Tuesday as troops continued to battle in the southern part of the Strip, while soldiers in the enclave’s north uncovered armaments and documentation of the devastating October 7 massacre in Israel.

As the campaign to topple the Hamas terror group stretched into a 67th day, Palestinians said Israel Defense Forces soldiers raided a hospital amid exchanges of fire with gunmen. At the same time, the army continued to publish what it said was evidence of Hamas fighting from residential areas, endangering civilians.

The latest day of intense battles came as attention shifted north to Israel’s border with Lebanon, which saw a sharp uptick in violence Tuesday as rockets and drones targeted Israeli communities and military positions near the frontier, drawing reprisal shelling.

Rockets continued to fly out of Gaza as well, targeting towns near the Strip as well as the coastal city of Ashkelon. There were no reports of injuries or damage in the launches, which have sharply dropped off in number as the war has dragged on.

The IDF said paratroopers battling Hamas in Gaza City’s Zeitoun and Shejaiya neighborhoods uncovered a lathe for manufacturing rockets, as well as memory cards with footage from the terror group’s brutal October 7 assault on southern Israel.

In a residential neighborhood of Jabaliya, another key area outside Gaza City, soldiers of the Nahal Infantry Brigade discovered firearms, RPGs, explosive devices and equipment inside buildings in a residential neighborhood, the IDF said, publishing a video of some of the findings.

Some of the weapons were destroyed and others were taken for further investigation, the military said.

The IDF stated that troops also found an apartment used by Hamas’s Nukhba commando forces, which was intended as a base of attack on soldiers. In the apartment, troops found documents and laptops that the IDF said contained plans for the October 7 attacks.

Additionally, the IDF said it carried out strikes against several Hamas rocket launchers in Gaza over the past day, including one as it was firing projectiles at Sderot.

Meanwhile, the elite Duvdevan unit raided a building used by Hamas gunmen and found some 250 mortars, rockets and RPGs, and the Navy carried out strikes against Hamas operatives that it had identified shooting at ground forces in Gaza, the IDF said.

Since the start of the ground incursion on October 27, the military has announced the deaths of 105 soldiers killed in Gaza.

Another 582 soldiers have been wounded in the ground operation — including 133 seriously wounded, 218 moderately and 231 lightly, according to IDF data from Monday.

Wounded Palestinians wait at the Kamal Adwan Hospital in Beit Lahia, Gaza Strip, on November 21, 2023. (AFP)

Amid the operations Tuesday, the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry said IDF soldiers entered the Kamal Adwan Hospital in Jabaliya “after besieging and bombing it for days.”

The UN humanitarian agency OCHA said that “the hospital remains surrounded by Israeli troops and tanks, and fighting with armed groups has been reported in its vicinity for three consecutive days.”

It said two mothers were killed in a strike on the maternity ward and that about 3,000 internally displaced people were trapped in the facility amid reports of “extreme shortages of water, food and power.”

There was no immediate comment from the IDF. The army has said hospitals in Gaza are regularly used by Hamas as bases of operations. It has operated in several hospitals in northern Gaza, producing evidence of such use.

The IDF has also coordinated the evacuation of hospitals.

More than two months into the war sparked by Hamas’s October 7 massacre in Israel, the chief of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, Philippe Lazzarini, likened Gaza to “hell on earth.”

World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Tuesday that a patient had died on the way to a hospital in Gaza due to a prolonged check at an Israeli army checkpoint.

He wrote on X, formerly Twitter, that the WHO was “deeply concerned about prolonged checks and detention of health workers that put lives of already fragile patients at risk.”

“Due to the hold-up, one patient died en route, given the grave nature of their wounds and the delay in accessing treatment,” he said. Tedros did not say in his message who carried out the checks, but a WHO spokesman told AFP they took place at an Israeli army checkpoint.

He added that over the weekend, the UN health agency and its partners had managed to deliver essential trauma and surgical supplies to the Al-Ahli hospital and to transfer 19 critical patients.

Israel has repeatedly urged residents of northern Gaza to leave the area as it battles Hamas forces in the area.

The military also said that the Kerem Shalom border crossing station was inspecting aid deliveries to Gaza, aiming to facilitate an increase in the number of aid trucks that can enter Gaza each day.

Israel previously inspected the trucks at the smaller Nitzana crossing between Israel and Egypt before they were sent to Rafah. While Israel is now using Kerem Shalom facilities to inspect the trucks, they will still need to enter Gaza through Rafah.

“This crucial step is set to expand the volume of aid reaching Gaza. We trust they did all the adjustments to receive and distribute the aid,” Israel’s COGAT military liaison to the Palestinians posted on X.

The Biden administration and the broader international community have been pressuring Israel for weeks to open Kerem Shalom, previously Gaza’s main goods crossing. Since the start of the war, all aid has been entering Gaza through Egypt’s Rafah Crossing, which is intended primarily for pedestrians.

Meanwhile, there have been mixed reports on a revival of talks for a deal to release hostages as the offensive progresses. Israeli officials have insisted that the campaign will pressure Hamas to free captives, while Hamas has said that hostages won’t leave the Strip until its demands are met.

It is believed that 138 hostages remain in Gaza — not all of them alive — after 105 civilians were released from Hamas captivity during a weeklong truce in late November. Four hostages were released prior to that, and one was rescued by troops. In recent days, the IDF has confirmed the deaths of 18 of those still held by Hamas, due to new intelligence and findings obtained by troops operating in Gaza.

Haaretz, citing an anonymous source with knowledge of the matter, reported that there had been no talks between Israel and Hamas on a potential new hostage deal since the previous one collapsed.

Still, another source told the paper the Qatari mediation channel is still active and the sides could yet move toward a new agreement.

Israelis attend a rally calling for the release of Israelis held by Hamas terrorists in Gaza at ‘Hostages Square’ in Tel Aviv, December 9, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

The ground operation followed three weeks of aerial bombardments in the wake of the Hamas-led massacres on October 7, when Palestinian terrorists stormed the border into southern Israel and killed some 1,200 people — mostly civilians — and kidnapped at least 240.

Israel declared war on Hamas in response, launching an offensive aimed at toppling the Gaza-ruling terror group and securing the release of the hostages. The ground operation initially concentrated on northern Gaza but has since expanded to the Strip’s south.

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza has claimed that since the start of the war, more than 18,400 people have been killed, mostly civilians. These figures cannot be independently verified and are believed to include some 7,000 Hamas terrorists, according to Israel, as well as civilians killed by misfired Palestinian rockets. Another estimated 1,000 terrorists were killed in Israel during the October 7 onslaught.

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