• Russia receives Hamas delegation and urges it to release hostages, including three Russian nationals
  • A Palestinian-American teenager was killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank, Palestinian officials say

By Ibraheemabu Mustafa, Nidal Al-Mughrabi

The Palestinian Red Crescent accused Israel of firing on Friday at a hospital in Khan Younis, as a major advance in the main city in the southern Gaza Strip threatened the few healthcare facilities still open.

The Red Crescent said displaced people were injured “due to intense gunfire from the Israeli drones targeting citizens at Al-Amal Hospital” as well as the rescue agency’s base. The military said it was checking the report.

Nearby in the same city, Israeli tanks were also approaching Gaza’s biggest remaining functioning hospital, Nasser, where people reported hearing shellfire from the west. Residents also reported fierce gun battles to the south.

Israel has launched a major new advance in Khan Younis this week to capture the city, which it says is now the primary base of the Hamas fighters who attacked Israeli towns on Oct. 7, precipitating a war that has devastated the Gaza Strip.

The Gaza health ministry said 142 Palestinians had been killed and 278 injured in Gaza in the past 24 hours, taking the death toll from more than three months of war there to 24,762.

The World Health Organisation says most of the enclave’s 36 hospitals have stopped working. Only 15 are partially functioning and those are operating at up to three times their capacity, without adequate fuel or medical supplies, it says.

Israeli officials have accused Hamas fighters of operating from hospitals, including Nasser, which staff deny.

More than 1.7 million people – around 75% of Gaza’s population – are estimated to be displaced, many forced to move repeatedly, according to U.N. Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA) figures. Many have sought refuge in tents that do little to protect them from the elements and disease.

Among them, Mohammed al-Ghandour wanted to give his bride a beautiful wedding but they had to flee their homes in Gaza City and the couple finally got married this week in the tent city in Rafah, near the Egyptian border, where they now live.

“My happiness is maybe at 3% but I will get myself ready for my wife. I want to make her happy,” Ghandour said.

Netanyahu Rejects Statehood

While saying he was not shying away from the “human tragedy” inflicted on Gaza civilians, Israeli President Isaac Herzog cast the offensive as a step towards more peaceful relations with the Palestinians in the future and bolstering global security, during his appearance at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

In the north, where Israel says it has started pulling out troops and shifting to smaller-scale operations, 12 people were killed in Israeli strikes on a residential building near the largely non-functioning Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, Palestinian health officials said.

An Israeli strike on a house in Al-Nusseirat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip killed five Palestinians, health officials said.

Washington has had scant success in persuading its ally to alleviate the plight of the civilian population, deprived since October of most of the regular aid on which they had depended, let alone of adequate medical care for the more than 62,000 people who have been wounded.

Israel says it will fight on until Hamas is eradicated, an aim Palestinians call unachievable because of the group’s structure and deep roots in an enclave it has run since 2007.

Diplomats were dealing on Friday with the repercussions after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to rule out an independent Palestinian state, rejecting a long-standing pillar of U.S. strategy in the Middle East.

“Israel must have security control over the entire territory west of the Jordan River,” Netanyahu told a briefing in Tel Aviv on Thursday. “It clashes with the principle of sovereignty, but what can you do?”

U.S. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller responded at a news briefing that the establishment of a Palestinian state was the only way to provide lasting security to Israel itself, along with reconstruction, governance and security for Gaza.

Russia Pushes For Hostage Release

In one of countless protests in Israel since Oct. 7 to push for action to secure the release of the hostages, some 200 women marched in Tel Aviv on Friday, including one pulled along in a cage. They chanted “Their time is running out, bring them back”.

Israeli cabinet minister and former military chief Gadi Eizenkot has said a deal will soon be needed if the hostages are to be released alive.

“I think it is necessary to say boldly that it is impossible to bring the hostages back alive in the near future without a deal,” Eizenkot told the Channel 12 programme Uvda.

The Russian foreign ministry said on Friday it had received a delegation from Hamas and had urged it to release the hostages, including three Russian nationals. Hamas said both sides emphasized the importance of reaching a ceasefire.

Apart from Gaza, Israel has also carried out raids in the occupied West Bank, which has seen the worst violence in many years.

A Palestinian-American teenager was killed by Israeli security forces there on Friday, Palestinian health officials said. The Israeli military did not immediately respond to a request for comment. – reuters.com

Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Doha, Ibraheem Abu Mustafa in Gaza, Henriette Chacar in Tel Aviv, Emma Farge in Geneva Writing by Kevin Liffey and Alison Williams; Editing by Philippa Fletcher, Peter Graff and Toby Chopra

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