Intense bombardment of a Gaza Strip metropolis stuffed with refugees flattened a big mosque and killed or wounded scores of individuals on Thursday as Israel repeated its intention to push into the world with floor forces if Hamas doesn’t launch hostages earlier than the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Practically 100 individuals have been killed throughout the enclave from Israeli strikes over the previous day, the Gazan well being authorities mentioned Thursday, bringing the full loss of life toll after nearly 20 weeks of struggle to almost 30,000.

Round half of the Gaza Strip’s inhabitants of two.3 million individuals are crammed into the southern metropolis of Rafah alongside the border with Egypt, the place the strike on the mosque occurred Thursday. Wafa, the Palestinian information company, reported that at the very least seven Palestinians had been killed in a single day in Rafah and dozens extra wounded.

Israel’s preparations for an invasion of that space come as diplomats raced to forestall it, with Ramadan set to start round March 10.

President Biden’s Center East coordinator, Brett McGurk met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday for “an excellent couple of hours,” specializing in whether or not negotiators might “cement a hostage deal” based on a White Home spokesman.

Talks final week in Cairo for a hostage deal failed when Mr. Netanyahu withdrew his negotiators, accusing Hamas of refusing to budge on what he called “ludicrous” demands and pledging to press on with Israel’s offensive.

However on Wednesday night time, Benny Gantz, a member of Israel’s struggle cupboard, mentioned there had been momentum on a brand new draft of a deal that indicated a “chance to advance.” However he additionally warned that if no deal have been struck, the Israeli army would proceed combating throughout Ramadan.

One particular person briefed on the talks mentioned there have been indications that each Hamas and Israel have been keen to barter over an interim deal that might alternate 35 Israeli hostages who’re both medically frail or older for an undetermined variety of Palestinian prisoners.

On Thursday, Israel’s protection minister, Yoav Gallant, mentioned that the federal government “will develop the authority given to our hostage negotiators.”

In keeping with Israeli officers, about 130 hostages are nonetheless held in Gaza, although officers consider that at the very least 30 of them are useless.

Senior Israeli, Qatari, U.S. and Egyptian officers will meet in Paris on Friday to try to advance a deal for a cease-fire and the discharge of hostages held by Hamas, an Israeli official and an individual briefed on the talks mentioned on Thursday. Qatar and Egypt have been appearing as intermediaries between Israel and Hamas, which don’t negotiate immediately.

The Mossad chief, David Barnea; the C.I.A. director, William Burns; the Qatari prime minister, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim al-Thani; and Abbas Kamel, the top of Egyptian intelligence, are among the many anticipated attendees on the Paris talks, the Israeli official mentioned, talking on the situation of anonymity to debate the diplomatic developments, as did the particular person briefed on the talks.

On Thursday, Hamas praised a capturing close to a checkpoint within the Israeli-occupied West Financial institution that killed at the very least one particular person, whom native media recognized as an Israeli man in his 20s, and injured a number of others Thursday morning. Violence within the West Financial institution has soared since the war in Gaza began, underlining the broader challenges of stability and governance throughout the occupied territories.

In Thursday’s capturing, three Palestinians used automated weapons to fireside from a automotive towards a visitors jam in entrance of the A Za’im checkpoint, which ends up in Jerusalem, the Israeli police mentioned. All three attackers have been killed, Eli Levy, a police spokesman, mentioned in a video assertion.

The Israeli army mentioned Thursday that it was combating Hamas throughout the breadth of the Gaza Strip. Troops “continued to develop” their offensives in northern Gaza, the army mentioned. On the similar time, the Israeli navy focused vessels that it mentioned have been being utilized by Hamas and Islamic Jihad, one other militant group. And within the south, Israeli troops engaged and killed 15 fighters within the metropolis of Khan Younis, the army mentioned.

In Rafah, the extreme bombardment Thursday heightened fears amongst residents who mentioned it was the heaviest since 10 days in the past, when Israeli forces carried out a raid there to free two hostages and launched a wave of assaults that the well being authorities mentioned killed dozens of Palestinians.

“It was a really onerous night time,” mentioned Akram al-Satri, who’s sheltering in Rafah. “They destroyed Al-Farouk mosque, which is among the largest mosques within the space,” he added in a voice message on Thursday. Video printed on Thursday by the Reuters information company exhibits a big pile of particles on the website of the mosque.

The Israeli army didn’t instantly reply to a request for touch upon Thursday in regards to the strikes on Rafah. Mr. Netanyahu has described the town as a Hamas stronghold, and says the aim of Israel’s marketing campaign is to eradicate the militant group.

For the reason that Rafah raid and Mr. Netanyahu’s announcement of a deliberate ground offensive in Rafah, some individuals there — lots of whom had already been displaced a number of instances — started packing up and moving north.

On Thursday morning, after an evening of concern as drones buzzed and airstrikes boomed, extra displaced households from Rafah started arriving on the Al-Aqsa Hospital in Deir al Balah, a metropolis in central Gaza, mentioned Beirut Hana, a lawyer who’s sheltering there. They arrange tents in and across the hospital and on empty plots of land, she mentioned.

“For the reason that Israeli military introduced their plans for a floor invasion of Rafah, individuals grew to become scared and began shifting,” Ms. Hana mentioned in a telephone interview. “Day-after-day since then, giant crowds of individuals have been arriving in Deir al Balah and Nuseirat,” one other metropolis in central Gaza.

Ms. Hana mentioned that though some individuals have been returning to their houses in Deir al Balah, many others who weren’t from the town had come searching for security. However heavy bombardment has additionally continued in central Gaza, residents mentioned.

“So many individuals are fleeing Rafah and coming right here pondering they’d be safer, solely to get killed right here,” mentioned Ms. Hana, referring to the central strip.

Aaron Boxerman, Adam Sella Nader Ibrahim and Julian E. Barnes contributed reporting.


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