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Israeli forces continue to advance further into the Gaza Strip as the offensive against Hamas enters its fifth day 2024-04-17 06:23:26

On Tuesday, Israeli forces engaged with Hamas militants in the central Gaza Strip as Israel's ground campaign in the conflict-ridden territory persists.

According to Palestinian witnesses, Israeli troops entered Gaza from the north and east, leading to clashes between Hamas militants and Israeli soldiers. An NPR producer in the central Gaza Strip reported the presence of an Israeli tank and bulldozer located south of Gaza City on Salah al-Din, the main highway that runs from north to south through the Gaza Strip.

Meanwhile, Israel continues its relentless campaign of airstrikes across Gaza. Israel stated on Tuesday that over the past day, airstrikes targeted at least 300 locations in the Gaza Strip.

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have been evacuated from the northern half of Gaza, seeking shelter in any available refuge in the south. Schools, hospitals, and mosques are housing hundreds of people, while private homes are overcrowded with dozens or more. According to the United Nations, a total of 1.4 million Palestinians have been forced to leave their homes.

Israel maintains that its current operation is not a "ground invasion" but rather an "expanded operation" or a "new phase" of the war, despite the continuous presence of its troops in the Gaza Strip.

On Tuesday, Israel announced the death of Naseem Abu Ajina, a Hamas fighter who, according to Israel, helped lead the attacks on October 7th when around 2,000 Hamas militants crossed into Gaza, killing 1,400 people and abducting hundreds more. Abu Ajina was said to have "led" part of the attack on two Israeli cities north of the Gaza Strip, according to the Israeli military.

In recent days, the number of hostages held by Hamas, as reported by Israeli officials, has increased due to difficulties in identifying foreign citizens. According to Israel, the total number of hostages is now 240, with five already released.

According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, more than 8,300 Palestinians, including over 3,400 children, have been killed in the Gaza Strip since October 7th. The humanitarian group "Save the Children" corroborates these figures.

Israel has stated that it will not agree to a ceasefire, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu likening Israel's calls for a ceasefire to asking the United States to halt military actions after the events of September 11th or Pearl Harbor.

Officials have reported that at least ten Americans are among those held hostage by Hamas, with hundreds of American citizens trapped in the Gaza Strip. The U.S. State Department has representatives in Doha engaged in negotiations for the release of hostages and the safe evacuation of Americans from the Gaza Strip, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken in "close contact" with Qatari officials. Hamas controls the Gaza Strip's border crossing with Egypt in Rafah and is preventing the departure of foreign citizens, according to officials.

"Serious obstacles remain on both paths," said Matthew Miller, a State Department spokesperson, during a briefing on Monday. "There's no higher priority, starting with the president."

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