Israeli tanks 'near hospital' in embattled north Gaza

Israeli tanks are positioned around a hospital complex in north Gaza where 12 Palestinians were killed and dozens wounded, the enclave's health ministry says, as fighting rages on amid indications of an impending pause in hostilities.

There was no immediate confirmation from the Israeli military of the reports from the Indonesian Hospital but the Palestinian news agency WAFA said the facility had been hit by artillery fire.

Like many other health facilities in embattled Gaza, the Indonesian Hospital, set up in 2016 with funding from Indonesian organisations, has ceased operations. 

UN chiefl Antonio Guterres has appealed for an immediate truce.

Health ministry spokesman Ashraf Al-Qidra said on Monday about 700 people, including medical teams and wounded, were inside the facility.

At the other end of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, at least 14 Palestinians were killed in two Israeli air strikes on houses in the town of Rafah, near the border with Egypt, health officials said.

The Israeli military issued a statement with video of air strikes and troops going house-to-house, saying it killed three Hamas company commanders and a squad of Palestinian fighters, without giving locations.

Despite continued fighting, the United States and Israeli officials said a deal to free some of the hostages held in the Palestinian enclave was edging closer.

Some aid has been getting in through the Rafah commercial crossing with Egypt where 40 trucks containing equipment for the Emirati field hospital were expected later, according to a statement by Gaza's General Authority for Crossings and Borders.

About 240 hostages were taken during a deadly cross-border rampage into Israel by Hamas militants on October 7, which prompted Israel to invade the tiny Palestinian territory to wipe out the Islamist movement after several inconclusive wars since 2007.

humanitarian aid delivery
Some aid has been getting into Gaza through the Rafah commercial crossing with Egypt.

About 1200 Israelis, mostly civilians, were killed in the Hamas assault, according to Israeli tallies.

Since then, Gaza's Hamas-run government said at least 13,000 Palestinians have been killed, including at least 5500 children, by unrelenting Israeli bombardment and air strikes.

Israeli tanks and troops stormed into Gaza last month and have since seized wide areas of the north and northwest and east around Gaza City, the Israeli military says.

But Hamas and local witnesses say militants are waging guerrilla-style warfare in pockets of the congested, urbanised north, including parts of Gaza City and the Jabalia and Beach refugee camps.

In Beijing, Arab and Muslim ministers joined international calls for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, as their delegation visited major world capitals to push for an end to hostilities and to allow humanitarian aid deliveries to stricken civilians.

A man carries his daughter in a wheelbarrow
Gaza's traumatised population has been on the move since the start of the war.

Israel said Yemen's Iran-backed Houthis seized a British-owned and Japanese-operated cargo ship in the southern Red Sea.

Houthi forces have been launching long-range missile and drones at Israel in solidarity with Hamas.

Even as fighting continued on the ground in Gaza, Israel's ambassador to the US Michael Herzog said Israel was hopeful a significant number of hostages could be released by Hamas "in coming days".

A White House official said the "very complicated, very sensitive" negotiations were making progress.

They coincided with Israel preparing to expand its offensive against Hamas to Gaza's southern half, signalled by increasing air strikes on targets Israel sees as lairs of armed militants.

However, the US cautioned Israel on Sunday not to embark on combat operations in the south until military planners have taken into account the safety of Palestinian civilians.

Gaza's traumatised population has been on the move since the start of the war, sheltering in hospitals or trudging from the north to the south and, in some cases, back again, in desperate efforts to stay out of the line of fire.

The civilian death toll in Gaza is "staggering and unacceptable," United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said, appealing again on Sunday for an immediate humanitarian truce.

with AP

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