Istanbul: Tens of thousands of people demonstrate to show solidarity with the Palestinian people amid the Gaza crisis, at the Galata Bridge, on Monday. They gathered around the bridge to denounce the ‘terrorism of the PKK and Israel’ and to support the Palestinians in Gaza, the official Turkish agency Anadolu said.—AFP
Istanbul: Tens of thousands of people demonstrate to show solidarity with the Palestinian people amid the Gaza crisis, at the Galata Bridge, on Monday. They gathered around the bridge to denounce the ‘terrorism of the PKK and Israel’ and to support the Palestinians in Gaza, the official Turkish agency Anadolu said.—AFP

• Death toll rises to 22,000 as Israeli tanks withdraw from certain areas amid shift to ‘lower-intensity operations’
• Ceasefire talks underway in Cairo

GAZA STRIP: Israel warned on Wednesday that its war in Gaza would continue throughout 2024 as unrelenting strikes killed at least 25 people in the beseiged enclave on New Year’s Day.

Israel’s military spokesman Daniel Hagari said in a New Year’s message that some of the 300,000 army reservists would get a break in order to prepare for the “prolonged fighting” ahead.

“The army must plan ahead, understanding that we will be required for additional tasks and warfare throughout this year,” Hagari said.

“We are also currently adapting the planning of the force deployment in Gaza and the reserve system. Some of the reservists will return to their families and employment this week.

“This will significantly ease the burden on the economy and allow them to gather strength for the upcoming activities in the next year, as the fighting will continue and they will still be required,” Hagari added.

Heavy artillery fire again pounded targets in Gaza, killing 25 people on Monday, health ministry officials there said, with attacks reported across the length of the territory.

The Gaza health ministry said 15 dead bodies from the same family were recovered Monday from the rubble of a bombed house in Jabalia, in the northern part of the territory.

The Israeli offensive has reduced vast areas of Gaza to a ruined wasteland and killed 21,822 people, mostly women and children, according to the territory’s health ministry.

Tel Aviv pulled tanks out of some Gaza City districts on Monday, residents said, as it announced plans to shift tactics and cut back on troop numbers, but fighting raged elsewhere in the Palestinian enclave along with intense bombardment.

“This appears to be the start of the gradual shift to lower-intensity operations in the north that we have been encouraging,” the official said.

Residents of Sheikh Radwan district in Gaza City, in the northern part of the enclave that Israel’s offensive focused on first, said tanks had withdrawn after what they described as the most intense 10 days of bombardment since the conflict began.

Israel’s decision to withdraw some troops from Gaza appears to signal the start of a shift to lower-intensity operations in the north of the Palestinian enclave, although there was still fighting going on there, a US official said

“The tanks were very near. We could see them outside the houses. We couldn’t get out to fill water,” said Nasser, who lives in Gaza City’s Sheikh Radwan neighbourhoods.

Tanks also pulled out of Gaza City’s Al Mina district and parts of Tel Al Hawa district, while retaining some positions in the suburb controlling the enclave’s main coastal road, residents said.

“We are exhausted... We were displaced five times during this war,” said 29-year-old Bassam Hana.

“We hope things improve in 2024 and that we live just like any other human being. Currently, we live like animals.”

At least 48 Palestinians were killed in strikes on Gaza City over the weekend, the territory’s health ministry said, with many still buried under the rubble.

Regional fears

International mediators have continued efforts toward a pause in fighting.

A Hamas delegation from Qatar visited Cairo on Friday to discuss an Egyptian three-phase plan proposing renewable ceasefires, a staggered release of Israeli prisoners for Palestinians, and ultimately an end to the hostilities, sources close to Hamas said.

Their allies Islamic Jihad said on Saturday that Palestinian factions were evaluating the proposal and would give a response “within days”.

The Israeli army claimed on Sunday night that it had intercepted two ‘hostile aircraft’ launched from Syria towards northern Israel.

It had spoken earlier of launches toward Israeli territory from Lebanon.

Published in Dawn, January 2nd, 2024

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