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Israeli troops search for Hamas terrorists as furious urban fighting continues

Updated December 8, 2023 - 1:36 pm

DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip — Israel said Friday that the military was rounding up Palestinian men in northern Gaza for interrogation, searching for Hamas terrorists as furious urban fighting has continued in the north.

Israeli government spokesman Eylon Levy said Friday that those detained in northern Gaza were “military-aged men who were discovered in areas that civilians were supposed to have evacuated weeks ago.”

Authorities were questioning the detainees to determine whether they were members of the terrorist group, Levy said, indicating there would be more such sweeps going forward as troops move from north to south.

The Israeli assault has obliterated much of Gaza City and surrounding areas in the north. Still, tens of thousands of residents are believed to remain there.

Heavy fighting has been underway for days in Jabaliya refugee camp and the Gaza City district of Shujaiya.

Israel has vowed to crush the military capabilities of Hamas, which rules Gaza, and remove it from power following the group’s Oct. 7 attack that sparked the war.

Hamas and other terrorists killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, in the Oct. 7 attack and took more than 240 hostages. More than 130 hostages remain in Gaza, predominately soldiers and civilian men, after more than 100 were freed, most during a cease-fire last month.

The military says 93 of its troops have been killed in the ground campaign.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday attended the funeral of Israeli soldier Master Sgt. Gal Meir Eizenkot, 25, who was killed in fighting in Gaza, at the military cemetery in Herzliya, Israel.

The death of Eizenkot, the son of Gadi Eizenkot, Israel’s former army chief who is also currently a member of Israel’s war cabinet, has resonated across the country and drawn condolences from Israel’s top leaders.

Israel’s retaliatory air and ground campaign initially focused on the northern half of Gaza. A week ago, Israel expanded its ground assault into central and south Gaza.

Israel’s campaign has killed more than 17,400 people in Gaza, according to the territory’s Health Ministry. The ministry does not differentiate between civilian and combatant deaths.

Hamas has been designated as a terrorist organization by the United States, Canada and the European Union.

The military says it makes every effort to spare civilians and accuses Hamas of using them as human shields as the terrorists fight in dense residential areas.

Meanwhile, the United States vetoed a United Nations resolution demanding an immediate humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza.

The U.N. vote comes after Secretary-General Antonio Gutteres used a rarely exercised power to call the Security Council’s attention to the war in Gaza as a threat to international security.

The foreign ministers of Saudi Arabi, Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, the Palestinian Authority and Turkey were in Washington on Friday, pressing the Biden administration to drop its opposition to a cease-fire call and saying the war threatens to destabilize the region.

In a statement to the council, U.S. Deputy Ambassador Robert Wood underlined Washington’s opposition to a cease-fire, saying it would leave Hamas still holding hostages and posing a threat to Israel and so “plant the seeds for the next war.”

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