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Israel intensifies Gaza strikes as Hamas in Cairo for ceasefire talks

The mother of eight-year-old twins Ahmed and Jihan Nasser, who were killed during Israeli bombardment, kisses their hands as she mourns over their bodies at Al-Aqsa hospital in Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip on December 29, 2023. (Photo by AFP)

Israeli forces have killed at least 187 people in the south and central Gaza Strip in the past 24 hours as a team of senior Hamas leaders reached Cairo for negotiations to end Israel's 12-week-long air and ground assault on the blockaded coastal territory.

The regime’s warplanes pounded crowded areas in the southernmost end of Gaza on Friday, bringing the total death toll in the populated enclave to at least 21,507 people, including nearly 9,000 children and 6,500 women, the Gaza Health Ministry said Friday.

The number of people wounded in Gaza has also neared 56,000, according to the ministry figures.

The regime’s military said on Friday that its forces "are extending operation in Khan Yunis" in the Gaza Strip's south.

The Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) said on Thursday that Israel’s shelling near the southern town has killed 41 people over the past two days.

The casualties in repeated Israeli strikes near the facility include "displaced persons seeking shelter,” it said.

At least 35 people have also been killed in Israeli bombings in Nuseirat and Maghazi refugee camps in central Gaza. An airstrike hit a residential building near the Kuwaiti hospital in southern Gaza, killing at least 20 people on Friday.

The regime’s forces have fired at an aid convoy as it returned from northern Gaza along a route designated “safe” by Tel Aviv, according to Thomas White, director of UNRWA affairs in Gaza.

In recent days, tens of thousands of people have fled Israel’s bombardment of the center of the strip to take shelter in Israeli-designated “safe areas” in the southernmost end of the besieged strip, where the military has nevertheless also kept bombing.

The regime's brutal onslaught on the Palestinian territory has so far displaced some 85% of the Gaza Strip’s 2.3 million residents and sparked a humanitarian crisis that has left a quarter of Gaza’s population starving.

“People are using any empty space to build shacks,” said Juliette Touma, director of communications at UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees. “Some are sleeping in their cars, and others are sleeping in the open.”

The UN agency said 308 people seeking shelter in UN facilities have so far been killed while a total of 1,095 have been wounded while taking refuge at UN sites.

Hamas delegation in Egypt for ceasefire talks

On Friday a Hamas delegation arrived in Egypt to discuss Cairo’s proposal for a ceasefire in Gaza.

Egypt has reportedly put forward a three-stage plan that would entail an initial cessation of hostilities for at least a week and the release of all remaining Israeli hostages and Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

Hamas has previously rejected the Egyptian plan, but an official with the group said the resistance movement would seek “guarantees for a complete Israeli military withdrawal” from Gaza.

Israel launched its brutal onslaught on Gaza after it was caught off by Hamas Operation Al-Aqsa Storm on October 7. Despite international calls for a ceasefire, the regime's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tel Aviv will continue the war on Gaza until it achieves “all the objectives we've set ourselves."

Hamas, however, said on Thursday that its operation against the regime has put Israel "on the path of extinction."

Ramming in West Bank

Israeli forces shot dead a Palestinian in the occupied West Bank on Friday, medics said after military officials alleged he carried out a car ramming. 

The military alleged that the driver rammed the car into people near a military post south of the city of Hebron.

The Magen David Adom paramedic service said that it treated one person in moderate condition and three others who were lightly wounded.

Violence has surged in the territory since October 7, with Israeli forces and settlers killing at least 314 Palestinians.

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