Hamas resurfaces in areas of Gaza where Israel has withdrawn most of its forces – National

Hamas has begun to resurface in areas where Israel withdrew most of its forces a month ago, deploying police and paying the salaries of some of its officials in Gaza City in recent days, four people said. residents and a senior member of the militant group. SATURDAY.

Signs of a Hamas resurgence in Gaza’s largest city underscore the group’s resilience despite Israel’s deadly air and ground campaign in the four months since the Oct. 7 attack on Israel that sparked the war. Israel says it is determined to crush Hamas and prevent it from returning to power in Gaza, an enclave it has ruled since 2007.

In recent days, Israeli forces have renewed their strikes in the western and northwest neighborhoods of Gaza City, particularly in areas where salary distributions reportedly took place.

Four Gaza City residents told The Associated Press that in recent days, uniformed and plainclothes police officers have been deployed near police headquarters and other government offices, including near Shifa Hospital. , the largest in the territory. Residents said they saw the returning officials and subsequent Israeli airstrikes near the makeshift offices.

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The return of police marks an attempt to restore order in the devastated city after Israel withdrew a significant number of troops from northern Gaza last month, a Hamas official told AP, speaking undercover of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

The official said the group’s leaders had given instructions to restore order in parts of the north where Israeli forces had retreated, including helping to prevent the looting of shops and abandoned homes by residents who obeyed repeated Israeli evacuation orders and headed towards southern Gaza.

During the Israeli ground offensive, many houses and buildings were left half-standing or reduced to piles of rubble.

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Saeed Abdel-Bar, a resident of Gaza City, said a cousin received funds from a makeshift Hamas office set up to distribute $200 to government employees, including police officers and municipal workers.

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Since taking control of Gaza nearly 17 years ago, Hamas has operated a government bureaucracy staffed by tens of thousands of civil servants, including teachers and police, who operate separately from the group’s secretive military wing.

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Partial payment of salaries to some government employees indicates that Israel has not dealt a fatal blow to Hamas, even though it claims to have killed more than 9,000 Hamas fighters.

Ahmed Abu Hadrous, a resident of Gaza City, said Israeli warplanes had struck the area where the makeshift office is located several times earlier this week, including on Saturday.

Israeli military leaders said they had dismantled the command structure of Hamas battalions in the north, but individual fighters continued to carry out guerrilla-style attacks.

Meanwhile, fighting continued in southern Gaza.

At least 11 people were injured when the Israeli army fired smoke bombs at displaced people sheltering at the Palestinian Red Crescent headquarters in the southern town of Khan Younis, the organization said. This follows a 12-day siege that the Israeli army imposed on Red Crescent facilities, the organization said.

The Red Crescent said it documented the killing of 43 people, including three staff members, inside buildings by Israeli fire over the 12 days, and another 153 injured.

The Israeli military did not respond to the charity’s allegations of shooting at buildings, killings or blocking access, and claimed that the Al-Amal Hospital facilities had sufficient fuel and electricity and that the army had helped restock two oxygen tanks.

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The army said operations in Khan Younis would continue for several days.

At least 17 people, including women and children, were killed in two separate airstrikes overnight in Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost town on the border with Egypt, according to the Gaza registry office. Abu Yousef al-Najjar hospital where the bodies were taken.

The first strike hit a residential building east of Rafah, killing at least 13 people from the Hijazi family. The dead included four women and three children, hospital officials said.

“Two children are still under the rubble, and we still don’t know anything about them,” said relative Ahmad Hijazi.

The second strike hit a house in the Jeneina neighborhood of Rafah, killing at least two men and two women from the Hams family.

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Gaza’s health ministry said Saturday that 107 people had been killed in the past 24 hours, bringing the wartime total to 27,238. More than 66,000 people were injured.

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The conflict has razed large swaths of the small coastal enclave, displaced 85% of its population and pushed a quarter of residents into starvation. More than half of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents have sought refuge in and around Rafah.

Israel’s defense minister warned earlier in the week that Israel could expand its fighting to Rafah after focusing on Khan Younis, the largest city in southern Gaza. Although the statement alarmed international humanitarian officials and diplomats, Israel would risk significantly disrupting its relations with the United States and Egypt if it sent troops to Rafah, a key entry point for aid.

International mediators continued to work to bridge wide differences between Israel and Hamas over a proposed ceasefire agreement. Hamas is holding dozens of the approximately 250 hostages taken in the October 7 attack, after more than 100 of them were freed during a week-long truce in November. These releases were in exchange for 240 Palestinian prisoners.

Thousands of people gathered again Saturday evening in Tel Aviv for anti-government protests to express their growing frustration with the way Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his administration have handled the war. Others joined hostage families to push again for a deal to free everyone.

Meanwhile, the United States – mediating alongside Israel, Egypt and Qatar – launched an air attack on Friday evening against dozens of sites in Iraq and Syria used by Iran-backed militias and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, the first salvo of retaliation against the drone. strike that killed three American soldiers in Jordan last weekend.

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