Israel reports ‘perhaps the fiercest’ fighting in Gaza’s Jabalia since October

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The Israeli army told AFP on Friday that renewed fighting in Gaza’s northern town of Jabalia was “perhaps the fiercest” in over seven months of war.

The army had said in early January that it had “completed the dismantling of Hamas’s military framework in the northern Gaza Strip” and vowed to focus its war efforts on central and southern areas of the Palestinian territory.

But intense fighting resumed less than a week ago in Jabalia, the second-most populous town in northern Gaza.

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“Hamas was in complete control here in Jabalia until we arrived a few days ago,” the Israeli army told AFP on Friday, four months after its spokesman Daniel Hagari claimed that militants were operating in the area only sporadically and “without commanders.”

The current fighting in Jabalia is “perhaps the fiercest we have encountered” in this area since the start of the offensive in the Gaza Strip, the army said, adding that it was now operating in the town’s refugee camp.

Before the war, Jabalia was home to the largest refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, with more than 100,000 people packed into 1.4 square kilometers (0.5 square miles), according to the UN.

The army said it had killed around 200 militants since the resumption of fighting in Jabalia on Sunday.

Images provided by the Israeli army showed soldiers moving through a maze of heavily damaged and deserted buildings.

Intense fighting, accompanied by shelling, also resumed at the beginning of May in the Zeitun neighborhood in the southwest of Gaza City, also in the north of the Palestinian territory.

Until recently, Israel claimed that the last four Hamas battalions were hiding out in Gaza’s far-southern city of Rafah, on the Egyptian border.

On May 7, the Israeli army sent tanks and troops into eastern Rafah, vowing to wipe out the militant group.

According to Israeli military sources quoted in several media outlets, Hamas had about 30,000 fighters in the Gaza Strip, divided into 24 battalions before October 7.

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The Hamas attack on October 7 resulted in the death of more than 1,170 people in Israel, most of them civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.

More than 35,303 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have been killed in the Gaza Strip since the war broke out, according to data provided by the health ministry of Gaza.

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