ISRAEL photoThis handout picture released by the Israeli army on December 24, 2023 reportedly shows Israeli soldiers from the Givati Brigade operating in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas. (Photo by Israeli Army / AFP)

Israel targets southern Gaza; Biden urges caution

Israel said its armed forces were increasingly focused on Hamas targets in south Gaza Sunday, as the United States again pressed its ally to do more to protect Palestinian civilians.

Indicating a change in direction following intense clashes around Gaza City, the Israeli military announced that its forces were shifting their attention to the Hamas stronghold of Khan Yunis and other areas in the south.

Khan Yunis, initially a refugee camp transformed into a city, holds significance as the birthplace and power center of Yahya Sinwar, the leader of Hamas in Gaza. Israel attributes the outbreak of the war in the region to an October 7 attack, for which Sinwar is primarily held responsible.

On October 7, Hamas militants crossed into Gaza and targeted southern Israeli communities, resulting in approximately 1,140 deaths, mainly civilians, according to an AFP count based on Israeli data. They also took around 250 hostages, with 129 still held in Gaza.

In response, Israel pledged to dismantle Hamas, initiating a comprehensive offensive involving air, land, and sea operations in Gaza.

The Hamas government in the Palestinian territory claims the conflict has claimed over 20,000 lives, predominantly women and children.

The Israeli military reported nine soldiers killed in Gaza on Saturday, bringing the total death toll to 152 since the ground assault commenced on October 27.

Although operations would persist throughout Gaza, military spokesperson Jonathan Conricus suggested that forces were nearing operational control in north Gaza. He stated that the focus would now shift to confronting Hamas in southern Gaza.

‘We want a ceasefire’

In the early hours of Sunday, Hamas reported additional airstrikes hitting Jabalia and Khan Yunis.

Approximately 80 percent of Gaza’s 2.4 million population has been displaced due to the ongoing conflict, according to UN estimates. Many individuals from the north sought refuge in the comparatively safer south, only to find themselves engulfed in the war once again.

Against this backdrop, U.S. President Joe Biden disclosed having a “long talk” with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, characterized as a hawk.

The White House specified that the conversation revolved around the “objectives and phasing” of Israel’s military operation and emphasized the “critical need” to safeguard civilians.

Israeli officials provided a succinct account of the call, stating that Netanyahu “made it clear that Israel would continue the war until all of its goals have been achieved.”

Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, has experienced strained relations with several U.S. presidents. However, the ongoing disagreements regarding the conduct, duration, and aftermath of the Gaza war have further strained these ties.

On Friday, the United States supported a UN Security Council resolution that effectively urged Israel to permit “immediate, safe, and unhindered” delivery of life-saving aid to Gaza on a substantial scale.

‘Lost contact’

Global powers engaged in prolonged negotiations over the wording of a resolution, with Washington’s insistence leading to the tempering of certain provisions, notably the omission of a call for an immediate ceasefire.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has accused Israel of impeding aid deliveries by creating significant obstacles. The primary route for humanitarian relief to reach Gaza is through South Gaza.

Despite the limited aid that manages to enter the territory, it primarily comes across the Egyptian border near Rafah. For residents in the southern city of Rafah, the promise of aid alone is insufficient. Mahmud al-Shaer emphasized, “We don’t want food; we want a ceasefire.”

Ahmad al-Burawi, displaced from Beit Lahia in the north, added, “We just want to return to our lands; that’s all. We want a solution to end the war. People are dying.”

In Tel Aviv, Israelis, including friends and relatives of the 129 captives believed to be still held in Gaza, staged demonstrations on Saturday. Hamas’s armed wing reported a loss of contact with militants responsible for guarding five hostages, including three elderly men featured in a recent hostage video.

Spokesman Abu Obeida claimed, without providing evidence, “We believe that those hostages have been killed in Israeli strikes.”

Ship attacks

Efforts to revive a ceasefire and negotiate a prisoner exchange appear to be at a standstill. A previous ceasefire, which led to the release of 80 Israeli hostages in exchange for 240 Palestinian prisoners, lasted only one week before breaking down.

The Israeli army reports the capture of approximately 700 Hamas and Islamic Jihad “terrorist operatives” since the beginning of the war. Beyond Gaza, recent attacks on shipping routes indicate the conflict is extending into the wider region.

A chemical tanker off Veraval, India, was reportedly damaged in a drone strike, with the Pentagon attributing it to a “one-way attack drone fired from Iran.”

The United States holds Yemen’s Iran-backed Huthi rebels responsible for firing drones and missiles at a US warship and two other vessels in the Red Sea.

The US Central Command reported that four unmanned aerial drones targeted the USS Laboon but were successfully intercepted. Additionally, an Indian-flagged crude oil tanker in the Red Sea was hit, prompting a distress call.

Iran’s deputy foreign minister, Ali Bagheri, denied Iran’s orchestration of the campaign, asserting that the Huthis act independently based on their “own decisions and capabilities.”

Meanwhile, cross-border skirmishes between Israeli forces and Lebanon’s Hezbollah, backed by Iran like Hamas, have also occurred.



Peter Ritdung Wakkias is a Nigerian blogger and programmer, known for being the CEO of and He holds a Higher National Diploma in Computer Science from Isa Mustapha Agwai 1 Polytechnic Lafia. Based in Lafia, Nasarawa State.

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