New Delhi, Nov 3: The fighting between the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) and Hamas, in the nearly five-week-old war, has intensified in northern Gaza.
“This is not a small-scale operation,” Israeli military official Moshe Tetro told international media during an online briefing on Thursday. “Northern Gaza is the place of war.”
Tetro, from the IDF unit that coordinates Israeli government activities in the Palestinian territories, said, “We call on the population of Gaza to go south, where we will allow humanitarian supplies.”
He said the displaced Gazans could return to their home areas when the war is over.
But he seemed to downplay the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, following Israel’s retaliatory airstrikes and ground invasion.“We are not close to any kind of humanitarian crisis.”
According to media reports from the Middle East, citing Hamas-run health ministry, more than 8,000 Palestinians have been killed in the war so far.
Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie said in a statement, viewed on social media, that 40 percent of those dying in Gaza are children.
Tetro said the Hamas war casualty figures were not accurate.
He said Israeli airstrikes in the Jabalia neighbourhood in Gaza, for instance, did not kill hundreds, as reported in media. “This is a pure lie.”
Israel claimed it killed two Hamas commanders who were in the refugee camp.
“Hamas is using the population of Gaza as a human shield,”he said, adding that members of the armed group are hiding in hospitals and schools.
“We have intelligence that they are hiding underground,” he said referring to the network of tunnels said to build by Hamas over the years under the Gaza Strip.
Hamas launched barrages of missiles at Israel and rampaged through towns and villages in southern Israel on October 7, killing at least 1,400 people and wounding many others. Hamas also kidnapped more than 200 Israeli and foreign nationals from Israel, including children and the elderly, and took them hostage.
“The hostages are being held against international humanitarian law,” said Lior Haiat, the spokesman of the Israeli Foreign Ministry during the same media briefing.
“You are either standing with Israel or you are with Hamas,” he said of the countries that did not condemn the October 7 attack on Israel.
Other than facing a tough and long urban warfare in Gaza, the Israeli government will also have to fight the war’s diplomatic fallout.