Hamas battles Israeli forces in Gaza city

Top China, US diplomats discuss Israel-Hamas war

GAZA/BEIJING  -  Hamas battled Israeli forces in Ga­za’s main southern city on Wednes­day in some of the most intense combat of the two-month-old war sparked by the October 7 attacks.

The focus of the conflict has shift­ed into the besieged territory’s south following fierce fighting and bombardment that reduced much of the north to rubble and forced 1.9 million people to flee.

Israeli troops, tanks, armoured personnel carriers and bulldozers have rolled into Khan Yunis in the south, Gaza’s second biggest city, forcing already displaced civilians to pack up and flee again, witness­es told AFP. “Our forces are now en­circling the Khan Yunis area in the southern Gaza Strip,” Israel’s army chief Herzi Halevi said Tuesday.

“We have secured many Hamas strongholds in the northern Gaza Strip, and now we are operating against its strongholds in the south.”

The fighting was “the most in­tense day since the beginning of the ground operation” in late October, said the army’s Southern Command chief Major General Yaron Finkel­man. The streets of Khan Yunis were almost empty on Wednesday morn­ing as residents tried to take shelter from shelling and artillery fire, said AFP journalists, while the dead and wounded continued to pour into the city’s hospitals.

The top diplomats from China and the United States discussed the Israel-Hamas conflict in a call on Wednesday, Beijing and Washington said, agreeing on the need to de-es­calate the war.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken “reiterated the imperative of all par­ties working to prevent the conflict from spreading”, according to the US State Department.

Beijing said Foreign Minister Wang Yi stressed in turn that, regard­ing the conflict between Israel and Hamas, “the top priority is to cease fire and end the war as soon as pos­sible”. “Major countries must adhere to fairness and justice, uphold objec­tivity and impartiality, demonstrate calm and rationality, and make ev­ery effort to cool down the situation and prevent larger-scale humanitar­ian disasters,” Wang said, according to the foreign ministry.

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