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Deir al-Balah, Gaza Strip: Thousands of Palestinian families fled Wednesday from the brunt of Israel’s expanding ground offensive into Gaza’s few remaining, overcrowded refuges, as the military launched heavy strikes across the center and south of the territory, Palestinian health officials said.

The Israeli military says it has expanded its ground offensive in the Gaza Strip to the densely populated urban refugee camps in the central part of the territory. Israel says it aims to free the more than 100 hostages who remain in captivity in Gaza.

Israeli forces raided a refugee camp in the occupied West Bank, killing at least six Palestinians, Palestinian health authorities said Wednesday. The Israeli military also expanded its ground offensive in the Gaza Strip to the densely populated urban refugee camps in the central part of the territory.

Residents reported shelling and airstrikes in the tiny, cramped enclave, including the Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza, the southern city of Khan Younis and the southern town of Rafah, where tens of thousands have sought refuge in recent weeks. Much of northern Gaza was pounded to rubble weeks ago.

On foot or riding donkey carts loaded with belongings, a stream of people flowed into Deir al-Balah — a town that normally has a population of around 75,000. It has been overwhelmed by several hundred thousand people driven from northern Gaza as the region was pounded to rubble.

Israel has said its campaign in Gaza is likely to last for months, vowing to dismantle Hamas across the territory and prevent a repeat of its Oct. 7 attack into southern Israel. Benny Gantz, a member of the country’s three-man War Cabinet, said the fighting ”will be expanded, according to need, to additional centers and additional fronts.”

The two sides have exchanged fire almost daily across the border. Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen warned Wednesday that “all options are on the table” if Hezbollah does not withdraw from the border area, as called for under a 2006 U.N. cease-fire.

Image courtesy of LinkedIn

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