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Hamas: Latest Israeli attack on Gaza could derail ceasefire deal

A new Israeli offensive on Gaza on Monday (8) threatened ceasefire negotiations at a crucial moment, the Hamas chief said. Israeli tanks rolled into the heart of Gaza City and ordered residents to evacuate after a night of intense bombardment.

Residents said the air strikes and artillery fire were among the most intense in the nine-month conflict between Israeli forces and Hamas militants in the enclave. Thousands of people have fled.

The attack came as U.S. officials were in the area seeking a ceasefire after Hamas made major concessions last week. The militant group said the new offensive appeared intended to derail negotiations and called on mediators to rein in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The attack “could take the negotiation process back to square one. Netanyahu and his army will bear full responsibility for the collapse of this path,” Hamas quoted leader Ismail Haniyeh as saying.

Gaza City, in the northern Palestinian enclave, was one of Israel’s first targets when the war began in October. But fighting with militants there has persisted and civilians have sought shelter elsewhere, adding to the wave of displacement. Much of the city is in ruins.

Residents said neighborhoods in Gaza City were shelled overnight and into the early hours of Monday morning. Many multi-story buildings were destroyed, they said.

Gaza’s Civil Emergency Service said it believed dozens of people had been killed, but emergency teams were unable to reach them because of ongoing offensives.

Gaza residents said tanks advanced from at least three directions on Monday and reached the heart of Gaza City, backed by heavy Israeli air and ground strikes.

This forced thousands of people to leave their homes in search of safer shelter, which many were unable to find. Some people ended up sleeping on the side of the road.

The Israeli military said fighters from Hamas and its allied Islamic Jihad group were hiding in civilian infrastructure to attack Israeli forces. Israel said it had taken more than 30 fighters out of action.

Hope for a break in the fighting

The new Israeli offensive comes as Egypt, Qatar and the United States step up efforts to broker a ceasefire deal between Israel and Hamas.

Hopes for a lull in the fighting were revived among Gazans after Hamas last week accepted a key part of a U.S. ceasefire proposal, prompting an official on Israel’s negotiating team to say there was a real chance of a deal.

Hamas has dropped its demand that Israel commit to a permanent ceasefire before the Palestinian movement signs a deal. The militant group has now said it will allow negotiations to reach that goal during the first six-month phase, a Hamas source told Reuters on Saturday (6).

Netanyahu insists the deal cannot prevent Israel from resuming fighting until it achieves its war aims. Last October, he vowed to crush Hamas.

Source: CNN Brasil

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