Israel orders new evacuations in northern Gaza


RAFAH, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israel ordered new evacuations from parts of Gaza City on Tuesday. The Israeli military ordered the evacuation of the Zaytoun and Turkoman neighborhoods on the southern edge of Gaza City, an indication that Palestinian militants are still putting up stiff resistance in areas of northern Gaza that the Israeli military said had been largely cleared weeks ago.

Residents said there have been airstrikes and heavy ground fighting in eastern parts of Gaza City over the past two days.

Israel also has vowed to expand the offensive to the Gaza Strip's southernmost city of Rafah, where more than half of the territory's population of 2.3 million has sought refuge from fighting elsewhere. Many have crowded into sprawling tent camps and overflowing U.N.-run shelters near the Egyptian border.

The United States, Israel’s top ally, has been working with mediators Egypt and Qatar to try to broker another cease-fire and hostage release agreement. Hamas’ top political leader Ismail Haniyeh was in Cairo to meet with Egyptian officials on Tuesday, but there was no expectation of a breakthrough.

The war began when Hamas-led militants burst through Israel's formidable border defenses and rampaged across communities in southern Israel, killing some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking around 250 hostage. The militants are still holding some 130 captives, around a fourth of whom are believed to be dead, after most of the rest were released in a prisoner-hostage exchange last year.

Israel responded to the attack with one of the deadliest and most destructive military campaigns in recent history in the tiny coastal enclave, which has been under an Israeli and Egyptian blockade since Hamas seized power from rival Palestinian forces in 2007.

Gaza's Hamas-controlled Health Ministry claimed Tuesday that another 103 bodies have been brought to local hospitals in the last 24 hours, bringing the total Palestinian death toll to 29,195. The ministry does not differentiate between fighters and civilians in its records. Over 69,000 Palestinians have been wounded in the war, according to ministry claims.

Israel says it has killed over 10,000 Palestinian militants. The military says it tries to avoid harming civilians and blames the high civilian death toll on Hamas because the militant group fights in dense residential neighborhoods. The military says 237 of its soldiers have been killed since the start of the ground offensive in late October.