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Aid worker killed as Israel pounds Gaza’s north

The Israeli government says it is discussing "how to destroy the last vestiges" of Hamas battalions.

The Israeli government says it is discussing "how to destroy the last vestiges" of Hamas battalions.

An aid worker who was part of Belgium’s development aid efforts in the Gaza Strip has died in an Israeli strike, the Belgian government says, adding it is summoning the Israeli ambassador over the incident.

Belgium’s Development Minister Caroline Gennez said in a statement that 33-year-old Abdallah Nabhan and his seven-year-old son died after a bombardment by the Israeli army in the eastern part of the southern city of Rafah.

Nabhan, whose citizenship was not disclosed, worked for the Belgian Enabel agency, assisting small businesses.

“I will summon the Israeli ambassador to condemn this unacceptable act & demand an explanation,” Belgian Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib said in a post on social media platform X.

According to the government in Brussels, at least seven people were killed by the strike on a building that housed about 25 people, including displaced people from other parts of the Gaza Strip.

The development came as Seven World Central Kitchen aid workers – including Australian Zomi Frankcom – killed by Israeli air strikes in Gaza have been honoured at a memorial at the National Cathedral in Washington.

Israel is seeking to eradicate Hamas, which controls Gaza, after the militant group killed 1200 people and took 253 hostages in a cross border raid on October 7, by Israeli tallies.

More than 34,000 Palestinians have been killed in the war, according to Palestinian health authorities.

“The indiscriminate bombing of civilian infrastructure and innocent civilians goes against every international and humanitarian law and the rules of war,” Gennez said.

Medics in the besieged Palestinian enclave reported five Israeli airstrikes on Rafah early on Thursday that hit at least three houses, killing at least six people including a local journalist.

In the seventh month of a devastating air and ground war against the Gaza Strip’s ruling Islamist group Hamas, Israeli forces also resumed bombarding northern and central areas of the enclave, as well as east of Khan Younis in the south.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s war cabinet was holding meetings “to discuss how to destroy the last vestiges, the last quarter of Hamas’ battalions, in Rafah and elsewhere,” government spokesman David Mencer said.

He declined to say when or whether the classified forum might give a green light for a ground operation in Rafah.

Israeli warplanes had hammered the north for a second day on Wednesday, shattering weeks of comparative calm there.

Escalating Israeli warnings about invading Rafah, the last refuge for about a million civilians who fled Israeli forces further north earlier in the war, have nudged some families to leave for the nearby al-Mawasi coastal area or try to make their way to points further north, residents and witnesses said.

But the number of displaced people departing Rafah, abutting Gaza’s southern border with Egypt, remained small.

Many were confused over where they should go, saying their experience over the past 200 days of war had taught them that no place was genuinely safe.

The United States and 17 other countries on Thursday issued an appeal for Hamas to release all of its hostages as a pathway to end the crisis in Gaza but the group vowed not to relent to international pressure.

“We call for the immediate release of all hostages held by Hamas in Gaza now for over 200 days,” a statement by the countries said, in what a senior US official called an extraordinary display of unanimity.

The 18 countries all have citizens held by Hamas.

The signatories were the leaders of the United States, Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Spain, Thailand and the United Kingdom.

“We emphasise that the deal on the table to release the hostages would bring an immediate and prolonged ceasefire in Gaza, that would facilitate a surge of additional necessary humanitarian assistance to be delivered throughout Gaza, and lead to the credible end of hostilities,” the statement said.

Senior Hamas leader Sami Abu Zuhri told Reuters that Hamas would not be influenced by the statement and said the US needs to force Israel to end its aggression.

“The ball now is in the American court,” Abu Zuhri said.

—AAP

Topics: Gaza
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