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The Israeli army is repeating warnings to Palestinians not to return to war-torn northern Gaza

DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip (AP) — The Israeli army on Monday renewed warnings for Palestinians in Gaza not to return to the north of the disputed territory, a day after hospital officials in Gaza said five people were killed when large numbers displaced residents tried to reach the area. their homes in the war-torn area.

Northern Gaza was an early target of Israel’s war against Hamas and large parts of it have been razed, causing much of the area’s population to flee south. While around 250,000 people are said to live in the north, the Israeli army has prevented most of the displaced from returning during the six-month war because the area is an active conflict zone.

The army has reduced the number of troops it has in Gaza and said it has loosened Hamas’ control over the north, but Israel is still carrying out airstrikes and targeted operations in the area against what it says are reorganizing militants, with especially in the Gaza Strip. The main hospital, Shifa, is in ruins after a two-week raid and fighting last month.

Israeli military spokesman Avichay Adraee wrote on X, formerly Twitter, that Palestinians should remain in southern Gaza, where they have been told to take shelter, because the north is a “dangerous combat zone.”

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People seemed to heed the new warning, especially after Sunday’s violence.

Hospital authorities in Gaza said five people were killed by Israeli forces as they tried to travel north to their homes. Their bodies were taken to Awda Hospital in the urban Nuseirat camp in central Gaza, hospital records showed. Another 54 were injured in the incident, the data showed.

The Israeli military had no immediate comment and the precise circumstances behind the deaths were not immediately clear.

Anaam Mohammad, who was displaced from the northern city of Beit Hanoun and tried to return, said the army allowed women and children to cross, but when a group of Palestinians did not make room for them to pass, two tanks arrived and opened . firework. The forces also threw smoke bombs, which dispersed the crowd.

“People started running away. People were scared and couldn’t take the risk and enter a dangerous area,” she said.

Before Sunday’s violence, crowds crowded the coastal road and headed north on foot and by donkey cart. The returnees said they were pushed to make the dangerous journey because they were fed up with the difficult conditions they had to live in while displaced.

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“We want our houses. We want our life. We want to return with or without a ceasefire,” said Um Nidhal Khatab, who was expelled from the north.

Northern Gaza and the return of its people are a major sticking point between Israel and Hamas in ongoing negotiations to try to broker a ceasefire in exchange for the release of hostages taken by the militant group. Israel wants to try to delay the return to prevent militants from regrouping in the north, while Hamas says it wants a free flow of returnees.

The war has taken a staggering toll on Gaza’s civilians, with most of the area’s 2.3 million people displaced by the fighting and living in dire conditions, with little food and often in tents with no end in sight. visibility is their misery. Large parts of the urban landscape have been damaged or destroyed, leaving many displaced Palestinians with nowhere to go.

Six months of fighting in Gaza have plunged the tiny Palestinian territory into a humanitarian crisis, leaving more than 1 million people on the brink of starvation.

Famine is said to be looming in the hard-hit north, where aid is difficult to reach because of the fighting. Israel has opened a new border crossing for aid trucks heading north as it ramps up aid deliveries to the besieged enclave. However, the United Nations says the increase in aid in Gaza is not being felt due to ongoing distribution problems.

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The UN food agency said on Monday it had been able to deliver fuel and wheat flour to a bakery in isolated northern Gaza City for the first time since the war began.

The conflict began on October 7, when Hamas killed 1,200 Israelis, mostly civilians, in a surprise attack and raid in southern Israel. About 250 people were taken hostage by the militants and taken to Gaza. A deal in November freed about 100 hostages, leaving about 130 in captivity, although Israel says about a quarter of them are dead.

Israeli bombing and ground offensives in Gaza have killed more than 33,700 Palestinians and injured more than 76,200, the Gaza Health Ministry says. The ministry does not distinguish between civilians and fighters in its figures, but says women and children make up two-thirds of the deaths.

Israel says it has killed more than 12,000 militants during the war, but has provided no evidence to support this claim.

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Magdy reported from Cairo.

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Find more AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war

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