Israeli forces launched their storm of the main city in the southern Gaza Strip on Tuesday.
In what appeared to be the biggest ground assault since a truce collapsed last week, residents said Israeli tanks had entered the eastern parts of Khan Younis for the first time, crossing from the Israeli border fence and advancing west.
Some took up positions inside the town of Bani Suhaila on Khan Younis’ eastern outskirts, while others continued further and were stationed on the edge of a Qatari-funded housing development called Hamad City, residents said.
The Israelis, who seized the northern half of Gaza last month before pausing for the week-long truce, say they are now extending their ground campaign to the rest of the enclave to fulfill their objective of annihilating its Hamas rulers.
“We’re moving ahead with the second stage now. A second stage that is going to be difficult militarily,” government spokesperson Eylon Levy told reporters in a briefing.
Israel was open to “constructive feedback” on reducing harm to civilians as long as the advice is consistent with its aim of destroying Hamas, he said.
A spokesperson for the Hamas-controlled Gaza health ministry said hospitals in the southern Gaza Strip are “totally collapsing” amid the fighting, saying they “cannot deal with the quantity and quality of injuries that arrive.”
Washington has called on its close ally Israel to do more to reduce harm to civilians in the next phase of the Gaza war, which Israel launched following Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre. Palestinian terrorists led by Hamas invaded the Jewish state and rampaged across southern Israeli communities, murdering 1,200 people and seizing 240 hostages.
According to Hamas-controlled Gaza health authorities, thousands of people have died during Israel’s military campaign of air strikes and ground operations — although experts have cast doubt on the reliability of casualty figures coming out of Gaza, which also do not note how many killed were terrorists.
Israel says blame for harm to civilians falls on Hamas fighters who operate among them, including from tunnels below ground that can be destroyed only with huge bombs.
Since the truce collapsed, Israel has been posting an online map to tell Gazans which parts of the enclave to evacuate. The eastern quarter of Khan Younis was marked out on it on Monday, and is home to hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom took flight on foot.
“What civilians should do to stay safe is listen to the instructions that are coming out from our Twitter accounts, from our website, and also to look at the leaflets that are landing in their areas,” Israeli military spokesperson Richard Hecht told reporters on Tuesday.
Gazans say there is no safe place left to go, with remaining towns and shelters already overwhelmed.
The post Israeli Forces Launch Storm of Gaza’s Khan Younis in ‘Second Stage’ of Ground Campaign first appeared on Algemeiner.com.
Russia Extends Invitation to Palestinian Factions for Talks in Moscow
i24 News – Russia has extended invitations to various Palestinian factions, including Hamas and Fatah, for discussions on the Israel-Hamas conflict and broader issues in the Middle East.
Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov announced the initiative on Friday, highlighting Moscow’s desire to engage with all major players in the region amid heightened tensions.
The invitation included a dozen Palestinian groups and is slated for “inter-Palestinian” talks scheduled to commence on February 29.
Bogdanov, serving as President Vladimir Putin’s special envoy for the Middle East, emphasized the inclusivity of the invitation, stating, “We invited all Palestinian representatives — all political forces that have their positions in different countries, including Syria, Lebanon, and other countries in the region.”
Among the invitees are Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, alongside representatives of Fatah and the broader Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
The invitation comes at a critical juncture as the Israel-Hamas conflict continues to escalate, drawing international attention and concern. Russia’s proactive stance in convening discussions reflects its growing criticism of Israel and its Western allies, underscoring Moscow’s efforts to assert its influence in the region.
The post Russia Extends Invitation to Palestinian Factions for Talks in Moscow first appeared on Algemeiner.com.
Netanyahu: Those Who Want us to Desist from Rafah Op Are Telling Us to Lose
i24 News – Hamas drops its “delusional” demands, productive hostage talks could begin, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday, stressing Israel would not agree to the terror group’s current demands.
WATCH: PM Netanyahu delivers a statement after Hamas suspended negotiations pic.twitter.com/nxISPb4JUm
— i24NEWS English (@i24NEWS_EN) February 17, 2024
“I insist that Hamas should abandon its delusional demands – and when it does, we will be able to move forward,” Netanyahu said in a statement live on TV.
“Those who want us to desist from the Rafah operation,” the leader said in an apparent reference to the U.S. administration of President Joe Biden, “are telling us we should lose. We won’t be dictated to.”
The post Netanyahu: Those Who Want us to Desist from Rafah Op Are Telling Us to Lose first appeared on Algemeiner.com.
Iran Unveils New Air Defense Weaponry
i24 News – Iran demonstrated new weaponry on Saturday, including what it said was the locally made Arman anti-ballistic missile system and the Azarakhsh low-altitude air defense system, said the official IRNA news agency. Saturday’s unveiling ceremony of the two vehicle-mounted systems was held in the presence of Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Ashtiani.
“With the entry of new systems into the country’s defense network, the air defense capability of the Islamic Republic of Iran will increase significantly,” said IRNA.
Video of the new Azarakhsh SHORAD engaging a target drone
— Iran Defense|نیروهای مسلح جمهوری اسلامی ایران (@IranDefense) February 17, 2024
The Arman missile system is said to be able to “simultaneously confront six targets at a distance of 120 to 180 km,” while the Azarakhsh missile system “can identify and destroy targets up to a range of 50 km with four ready-to-fire missiles.”
The announcement comes amid tensions across the Middle East, with Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthis attacking vessels linked to the United States, UK and Israel in the Red Sea in a show of solidarity with the Gaza Strip.
— Press TV (@PressTV) February 17, 2024
The U.S. and its allies in the Middle East are concerned with Iran’s growing role at the international global arms market, The Wall Street Journal said on Friday. The transformation of the industry, boosted by Russia’s “purchase of thousands of drones that altered the battlefield in Ukraine, has helped Tehran scale up its support of militia allies in Middle East conflicts,” read the report.