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Israeli ground offensive in northern Gaza enters less “intensive phase” - Defense ministry

Israeli soldiers fire a mortar shell from southern Israel towards the Gaza Strip, in a position near the Israel-Gaza border , Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2024.   -  
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Leo Correa/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved.


Israel's Defense Minister said on Monday (Jan. 15) its forces are ending the “intensive phase” of the ground offensive in northern Gaza.

Yoav Gallant said his forces now worked to "eliminate pockets of resistance" as he hoped to "achieve this via raids, airstrikes, special operations, and additional activities."

Also on Monday, Hamas released a video announcing the death of two Israeli hostages and claimed that they were killed by Israeli airstrikes.

The plight of the hostages has gripped the nation's attention, and the tireless campaign by families has gained widespread support and sympathy, ratcheting up pressure on the Israeli government to make concessions to win their release.

Gallant reject calls for a ceasefire, brushing off any change of policy.

“If the fire stops, the fate of the abductees will be sealed for many years in the captivity of Hamas. Without military pressure, no one will talk to us, without military pressure we will not be able to reach any agreements. Only from a position of strength can the abductees be freed.”

The Israeli military strategy has meant death mostly for Palestinian women and children in Gaza who make up two-thirds of the 23,968 victims.

Starvation and the spreading of diseases loom for the over 1 million residents, the UN chief warned again on Monday (Jan.15).

"While there have been some steps to increase the flow of humanitarian assistance into Gaza, life saving relief is not getting to people who have endured months of relentless assault at anywhere near the scale needed," Antonio Guterres said. 

"Since the start of the year, just 7 of 29 missions to deliver aid to the north have been able to proceed," he lamented.

"Large stretches of agreed routes cannot be used due to heavy fighting and debris, with unexploded ordnance also threatening convoys."

The Israeli army said the intensive phase will soon be over in the Khan Younis area of the Strip’s south.

It has assessed that its Gaza campaign will likely last throughout all of 2024.

The military says 189 soldiers have been killed and 1,099 wounded since the start of the ground offensive.

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