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EDITOR IN CHIEF- ABDULLAH BIN SALIM AL SHUEILI

Israel launches Gaza strikes, says ready for new talks

A boy stands on the rubble of a destroyed house in Nuseirat following Israeli bombardment on Thursday. — AFP
A boy stands on the rubble of a destroyed house in Nuseirat following Israeli bombardment on Thursday. — AFP
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GAZA: Israel launched devastating air strikes on Gaza early Thursday while also saying it is ready to resume stalled talks on a truce and hostage release deal with Hamas to pause the war raging since October 7.


The Gaza Strip's civil defence agency said two pre-dawn air strikes had killed 26 people, including 15 children, in Gaza City alone.


Agency spokesman Mahmud Bassal said one strike hit a family house, killing 16 people, in the Al-Daraj area, and another killed 10 people inside a mosque compound.


There was no immediate comment from the Israeli military.


Fierce street battles also raged in Gaza's Jabalia and Rafah where the armed wings of Hamas and its ally Islamic Jihad said they had fired mortar barrages at Israeli troops.


International pressure for a ceasefire has mounted on Israel and its Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as three European countries said on Wednesday they would recognise a Palestinian state.


The week started with the International Criminal Court's prosecutor seeking arrest warrants on war crimes charges against Netanyahu and his defence minister as well as three Hamas leaders.


Israel has angrily rejected those moves, voicing "disgust" over the ICC request and labelling any recognition of Palestinian statehood a "reward for terrorism".


But domestic pressure has also risen as supporters of hostages trapped in Gaza again rallied outside Netanyahu's office, passionately demanding a deal to bring them home.


A newly released video showed five female Israeli soldiers, tied up and some with bloodied faces, in the hands of Palestinian militants during the attack more than seven months ago.


The three-minute clip, taken from a militant's body camera footage, was released by the Hostage and Missing Families Forum on Wednesday after the Israeli army lifted censorship on it.


"The footage reveals the violent, humiliating and traumatising treatment the girls endured on the day of their abduction, their eyes filled with raw terror," the forum said.


Netanyahu vowed to continue fighting Hamas to "ensure what we have seen tonight never happens again".


But his office also said that the war cabinet had asked the Israeli negotiating team "to continue negotiations for the return of the hostages".


The previous round of truce talks, involving US, Egyptian and Qatari mediators, ended shortly after Israel launched its attack on Gaza's far-southern city of Rafah early this month.


Israel went ahead with the assault on the last city in Gaza to be entered by its ground troops in defiance of global opposition, including from top ally the United States.


Washington voiced concerns that about 1.4 million Palestinians who had been trapped in the city would be caught in the line of fire.


Israel has since ordered mass evacuations from the city, and the UN says more than 800,000 people have fled.


US President Joe Biden's national security advisor, Jake Sullivan, said the Rafah operation "has been more targeted and limited" than feared and "has not involved major military operations into the heart of dense urban areas".


But he stopped short of saying that Israel had addressed US concerns, adding that Washington was closely watching ongoing Israeli actions.


Israel's national security advisor Tzachi Hanegbi has meanwhile given a bleak assessment of the war to a meeting of parliament's foreign affairs and defence committee, according to a report by Israel's Channel 13. — AFP


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