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DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israeli forces severed northern Gaza from the rest of the besieged territory ahead of an expected push into the dense confines of Gaza City. Palestinians held a mass funeral on Monday for dozens of people killed in strikes in the south, where Israel has urged people to seek refuge.
Troops are expected to enter the city soon, Israeli media reported, and militants who have prepared for years are expected to fight street by street using a vast network of tunnels.
Casualties will likely rise on both sides in the month-old war, which has already killed more than 9,700 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry. Some 1,400 Israelis have died, mostly civilians killed in the brutal incursion by Hamas that started the conflict. Both tolls are unprecedented in decades of fighting.
The Israeli military said late Sunday that it had cut off northern Gaza from the south, calling it a “significant stage” in the war. It said a one-way corridor for residents to flee south would remain available for the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who remain in Gaza City and other parts of the north.
Some 1.5 million Palestinians, or around 70% of Gaza’s population, have fled their homes since the war began. Food, medicine, fuel and water are running low, and U.N.-run schools-turned-shelters are beyond capacity, with many sleeping on the streets outside.
Mobile phone and internet service went down overnight, the third territory-wide outage since the start of the war, but was gradually restored on Monday, according to the Palestinian telecom company Paltel and internet access advocacy group NetBlocks.org. Aid workers say the outages make it even harder for civilians to seek safety or even call ambulances.
Israel has so far rejected U.S. suggestions for a pause in fighting to facilitate humanitarian aid deliveries and the release of some of the estimated 240 hostages seized by Hamas in its Oct. 7 raid. Israel has also dismissed calls for a broader cease-fire from increasingly alarmed Arab countries — including Jordan and Egypt, which made peace with it decades ago.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken wrapped up his Middle East diplomatic tour on Monday in Turkey after only limited success in his efforts to forge a regional consensus on how best to ease civilian suffering in Gaza.
The war has also stoked wider tensions, with Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group trading fire along the border. In another sign of growing unrest, a Palestinian man stabbed and wounded two members of Israel’s paramilitary Border Police in east Jerusalem before being shot dead, according to police and an Associated Press reporter at the scene.
Israel captured east Jerusalem, along with Gaza and the West Bank, in the 1967 Mideast war. The Palestinians want all three territories for a future state. Israel annexed east Jerusalem in a move not recognized by most of the international community and considers the entire city its capital.
In northern Gaza, a Jordanian military cargo plane air-dropped medical aid to a field hospital, King Abdullah II said early Monday. It appeared to be the first such airdrop of the war, raising the possibility of another avenue for aid delivery besides Egypt’s Rafah crossing, which has so far been the only entry point.
Over 450 trucks carrying aid have been allowed to enter Gaza from Egypt since Oct. 21, but humanitarian workers say it’s insufficient to meet mounting needs in the territory, which is home to some 2.3 million Palestinians.
Northern Gaza is facing a severe water shortage, as there is no fuel to pump from municipal wells and Israel shut off the region’s main line. The U.N. office for humanitarian affairs said seven water facilities across Gaza were struck over the last two days and sustained “major damage,” raising the risk of sewage flooding. Israel has restored two water pipelines in central and southern Gaza, the U.N. said.
Some 800,000 people have heeded Israeli military orders to flee to southern Gaza, including some 2,000 people, many carrying only what they could hold in their arms, who walked down Gaza’s main north-south highway on Sunday. “The children saw tanks for the first time. Oh world, have mercy on us,” said one Palestinian man, who declined to give his name.
But Israeli bombardments have continued across the territory, and strikes in central and southern Gaza — the purported safe zone — killed dozens of people on Sunday.
On Monday, Palestinians held a mass funeral for 66 people outside a hospital in the central town of Deir al-Balah. The bodies were wrapped in white sheets on the ground outside the hospital morgue. A man with bandages wrapped around his head placed his hand on a child’s body and wept.
The military said Monday that aircraft struck 450 targets overnight and took over a Hamas compound. It also said it had killed a senior Hamas militant, identified as Jamal Mussa, who had allegedly carried out a shooting attack against Israeli soldiers in Gaza in 1993.
Thirty Israeli troops have been killed since the ground offensive began over a week ago, according to the military. Palestinian militants have continued firing rockets into Israel, disrupting daily life even as most are intercepted or fall in open areas. Tens of thousands of Israelis have evacuated from communities near the volatile borders with Gaza and Lebanon.
Four civilians were killed by an Israeli airstrike in south Lebanon late Sunday, including three children, a local civil defense official and state-run media reported. The Israeli military said it had attacked Hezbollah targets in response to anti-tank fire that killed an Israeli civilian. Hezbollah said it fired Grad rockets from southern Lebanon into Israel in response.
Magdy reported from Cairo. Associated Press journalists Najib Jobain in Khan Younis, Amy Teibel and Sam McNeil in Jerusalem, and Kareem Chehayeb in Beirut contributed to this report.
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