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Israel pushes deeper into Gaza, frees Hamas prisoner

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He also rejected calls for a ceasefire to facilitate the release of captives or end the war, which he said will be long and difficult. “Calls for a ceasefire are calls for Israel’s capitulation to Hamas,” he told a news conference. “It will not happen.”

He also said he had no intention of resigning over growing anger over the failure of Israeli security forces to prevent the worst surprise attack on the country in half a century.

Hamas and other militant groups are believed to be holding some 240 prisoners, including men, women and children. Netanyahu faces growing pressure to secure their release, even as Israel wages a punitive war that he says aims to crush Hamas and end its 16-year rule in the territory.

Hamas, which freed four hostages, said it would let the others go in exchange for thousands of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel, many of whom are involved or convicted in deadly attacks against Israelis. Israel rejected the offer and Netanyahu said the ground invasion “creates the possibility” of extracting the hostages, adding that Hamas “will only do so under pressure.”

Hamas released a short video on Monday purporting to show three other captive women. One of the women makes a brief statement – ​​probably under duress – criticizing Israel’s response to the hostage crisis.

It is not clear when the Hamas video was made. The Associated Press generally refrains from reporting details of hostage-taking videos because they show individuals speaking under duress and are often used for propaganda purposes.

The army has remained vague about its operations inside Gaza, including the location and number of troops. Israel declared a new “phase” in the war, but stopped short of declaring a full ground invasion, although it deployed tens of thousands of troops to the border.

Movements in recent days, including larger ground operations north and east of Gaza City, indicate that the focus is on the city. Israel says much of Hamas’s militant forces and infrastructure, including hundreds of kilometers of tunnels, are in Gaza City, which before the war was home to more than 650,000 people, a population comparable to that of Washington, DC.

Although Israel has ordered Palestinians to flee the north, where Gaza City is located, and move south, hundreds of thousands of them remain, in part because Israel has also bombed targets in so-called security zones. Around 117,000 displaced people hoping to stay safe from strikes are housed in hospitals in northern Gaza, alongside thousands of patients and staff, according to UN figures.

The United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, known as UNRWA, says nearly 672,000 Palestinians have taken refuge in its schools and other facilities across Gaza, which are at four times capacity.

The death toll among Palestinians has surpassed 8,300, most of them women and children, Gaza’s health ministry said Monday. This figure is unprecedented in decades of Israeli-Palestinian violence. More than 1.4 million people in Gaza have fled their homes.

More than 1,400 people died on the Israeli side, mostly civilians killed in the first Hamas attack, also an unprecedented figure.

A video circulating on social media showed an Israeli tank and bulldozer in central Gaza blocking the territory’s main highway, which the Israeli military has in recent weeks suggested Palestinians use to evacuate to the south.

The video, taken by a local journalist, shows a car approaching a dirt barrier across the road. The car stops and turns around. As he drives away, a tank appears to open fire and an explosion engulfs the car. The journalist, in another car, fled in terror, shouting: “Go back! Go back!” as an ambulance and other vehicles approach.

Gaza’s health ministry later said three people were killed in the struck car.

Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, an Israeli military spokesman, declined to comment on where Israeli forces are deployed. He said additional infantry, armor, engineer and artillery units had entered Gaza and operations would continue to “expand and intensify.”

The army said its troops killed dozens of militants who attacked from inside buildings and tunnels. It said that over the past few days it had struck more than 600 militant targets, including weapons depots and anti-tank missile launch positions. Palestinian militants continued to fire rockets into Israel, particularly towards its commercial hub, Tel Aviv.

Hamas said its fighters clashed with Israeli troops who entered the northwest. It was not possible to independently confirm either side’s battlefield claims.

Meanwhile, crowded hospitals in northern Gaza were increasingly under threat.

The Gaza Health Ministry shared video footage that appears to show an explosion and a column of smoke near the Turkish-Palestinian Friendship Hospital for cancer patients. Hospital director Dr. Sobhi Skaik said the hospital suffered damage in a strike that put patients at risk.

All ten hospitals operating in northern Gaza have received evacuation orders, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said. Staff refused to leave, saying evacuation would lead to the death of patients on ventilators.

The strikes hit less than 50 meters from Al Quds hospital after it received two calls from Israeli authorities on Sunday ordering it to evacuate, the Palestinian Red Crescent emergency services said. Some windows were blown out and rooms were covered in debris. It indicates that 14,000 people have found refuge there.

Israel says it targets Hamas fighters and infrastructure and that militants operate among civilians, putting them in danger.

Beyond the fighting, living conditions for civilians in Gaza are continually deteriorating as food, medicine and fuel dwindle dangerously amid a week-long Israeli siege.

Without central electricity for weeks and with little fuel, hospitals are struggling to run backup generators to operate incubators and other vital equipment. UNRWA is working to keep water pumps and bakeries running.

On Sunday, the largest humanitarian aid convoy to date – 33 trucks – entered the territory from Egypt, and another 26 entered on Monday. Rescue workers say the amount is still far below what is needed for the population of 2.3 million people.

The fighting has raised fears that violence could spread across the region. Israel and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah engage in daily skirmishes along Israel’s northern border.

In the occupied West Bank, Israel said its warplanes carried out airstrikes on Monday against militants confronting its forces in the Jenin refugee camp. Hamas said four of its fighters were killed there. Israeli forces and settlers killed 123 Palestinians, including 33 minors, in the West Bank on Sunday, half of them during search and arrest operations, the UN said.

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Cnn

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