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Israel says it has started ‘operational activity’ in two areas of central Gaza

JERUSALEM — The Israeli military says it has “started operational activity” in two areas of central Gaza in a possible broadening of its monthslong ground offensive against Hamas terrorists.

The military said Wednesday that forces were operating “both above and below ground” in eastern parts of Deir al-Balah and Bureij. It said the operation began with airstrikes on terrorist infrastructure, after which troops began a “targeted daylight operation” in both areas.

Israel has routinely launched airstrikes in all parts of Gaza since the start of the war and has carried out massive ground operations in the territory’s two largest cities, Gaza City and Khan Younis.

The military waged an offensive earlier this year for several weeks in Bureij and several other nearby refugee camps in central Gaza.

Troops pulled out of the Jabaliya camp in northern Gaza last Friday after weeks of fighting.

Israel sent troops into Rafah last month in what it said was a limited incursion. Those forces are now operating in central parts of Gaza’s southernmost city.

More than 1 million people have fled Rafah since the start of the operation, with many heading toward central Gaza.

Israel launched the war after the Oct. 7 Hamas attack, in which terrorists stormed into southern Israel, killed some 1,200 people — mostly civilians — and abducted about 250. Around 80 hostages captured on Oct. 7 are believed to still be alive in Gaza, alongside the remains of 43 others.

Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza has killed more than 36,000 Palestinians, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza, which does not distinguish between combatants and civilians.

Israel says it tries to avoid harming civilians and blames Hamas for their deaths because the terrorist group places fighters, tunnels and rocket launchers in dense, residential areas.

The Biden administration has launched an intense drive to persuade Hamas and Israel to accept a new cease-fire and hostage release proposal, which has raised hopes of ending the war.

CIA Director Bill Burns was in Doha consulting with Qatar’s prime minister about the ongoing negotiations, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said on Tuesday.

The World Food Program and the Food and Agriculture Organization said in a joint report Wednesday that hunger is worsening because of heavy restrictions on humanitarian access and the collapse of the local food system.

The Israeli military says it has allowed hundreds of trucks to enter through Kerem Shalom in recent weeks, but the U.N. says it is often unable to retrieve the aid because of the security situation. It says distribution within Gaza is also severely hampered by ongoing fighting, the breakdown of law and order, and other Israeli restrictions.

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