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Fighting between Israeli forces and Hamas rages

1 min

Fierce Israeli tank fire and aerial bombing struck Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip on Friday night, residents said, after nearly 200 people were reported killed in 24 hours in Israel's campaign against Hamas militants.

Israeli soldiers operate in the Gaza Strip amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in this handout picture released December 30, 2023. Israel Defense Forces/Handout via Reuters

Fierce Israeli tank fire and aerial bombing struck Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip on Friday night, residents said, after nearly 200 people were reported killed in 24 hours in Israel's campaign against Hamas militants.

Planes also carried out a series of air strikes on the Nuseirat camp in central Gaza, according to medics and Palestinian journalists.

Israeli forces have been pounding Khan Younis in preparation for an anticipated further advance into the main southern city, swathes of which they captured in early December.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said troops were reaching Hamas command centres and arms depots. The Israeli military said it had destroyed a tunnel complex in the basement of one of the houses of the Hamas leader for Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, in Gaza City.

Twelve weeks after Hamas militants stormed Israeli towns, killing 1,200 people and seizing 240 hostages, Israeli forces have laid much of the Gaza Strip to waste as it pursues its war aimed at eradicating the Islamist group.

Nearly all of Gaza's 2.3 million people have fled their homes at least once and many are on the move again, often reduced to taking shelter in makeshift tents or huddled under tarpaulins and plastic sheets on open ground.

The narrow coastal strip is just 40 km (25 miles) long, making it one of the most densely populated areas in the world.

Gaza health authorities said 187 Palestinians were confirmed killed in Israeli strikes in the 24-hour period, raising the overall toll to 21,507 - about 1% of Gaza's population. Thousands more bodies are feared to be buried in the ruins of neighbourhoods.

A Palestinian journalist working for Al-Quds TV was killed along with some of his family members in an air strike on their house in the Nuseirat camp in central Gaza Strip, health officials and fellow journalists said.

 Israel's foreign ministry blamed Hamas for the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza by using them as human shields and stealing humanitarian aid from them. Hamas denies such accusations.

Israel on Friday said it facilitated the entry of enough vaccines to inoculate almost 1.4 million people against illnesses including polio, tuberculosis, hepatitis, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough and meningitis.

The vaccine transfer was coordinated with UNICEF, said a statement from COGAT - the defence ministry agency that coordinates with the Palestinians - in order to prevent the spread of disease in the enclave.

Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Cairo and Arafat Barbakh in Gaza; Writing by Daphne Psaledakis and Kim Coghill; editing by Grant McCool and Neil Fullick

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