Nearly three months after the start of the war between Israel and Hamas, 22,438 people, mostly women, adolescents and children, have been killed in the Gaza Strip, according to the latest report from the Palestinian Islamist movement published Thursday 4 January. This assessment could not be independently verified.

Israel vowed to “destroy” Hamas after its attack on Israeli soil on October 7, which left around 1,140 people dead, mostly civilians, according to an Agence France-Presse (AFP) tally based on official data Israelis. Around 250 people were kidnapped in this attack and taken to Gaza. About a hundred of them were released during a truce at the end of November.

Particularly intense strikes and artillery fire hit Khan Younes during the night from Wednesday to Thursday, a large town in the south of the Gaza Strip which has become the epicenter of the operations, according to an AFP correspondent. The health ministry of Hamas, in power in the Gaza Strip since 2007, reported dozens of deaths and more than 100 wounded in Israeli strikes overnight.

For its part, the Israeli army said it had targeted in particular “terrorists who wanted to place an explosive device near soldiers” and a Hamas arms depot in Khan Younes.

Furthermore, sirens announcing rocket fire rang out Thursday in Ashkelon, a town in southern Israel that the al-Quds Brigades of Islamic Jihad, another Palestinian armed group involved in the fighting, say they have targeted.

Fears of this war igniting the Middle East increased further after the elimination on Tuesday in Beirut of Hamas number 2, Saleh Al-Arouri, killed by a strike attributed to Israel. Several hundred people attended his funeral on Thursday before a burial in the Palestinian refugee camp of Shatila, in the Lebanese capital.

This strike was not claimed, but Israel was immediately singled out by Hamas and Lebanese Hezbollah, a pro-Iranian Islamist movement whose leader, Hassan Nasrallah, warned Israel against any further escalation after the death of Saleh Al-Arouri. In Washington, an American official also spoke of an Israeli strike.

In this context, the head of American diplomacy, Antony Blinken, is preparing to undertake a new tour of the Middle East in the hope of easing tensions. In addition to Israel, he will visit five Arab countries, as well as the West Bank, Turkey and Greece. He will plead for “immediate steps to be taken to substantially increase humanitarian aid” in the Gaza Strip, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller told the press.

On Wednesday, an attack which left 84 dead in Iran near the tomb of General Ghassem Soleimani, architect of Iranian operations in the Middle East, the same day that Iran commemorated the fourth anniversary of his death, further increased tensions. Iran accused Israel and the United States, allegations immediately refuted by Washington and which were not commented on by Israel. On Thursday, the Islamic State organization claimed responsibility for the attack.

In Israel, the army chief of staff, Herzi Halevi, declared that his troops were on alert on the border with Lebanon, an almost daily scene of exchanges of fire, where Hezbollah lost a total of 129 fighters in the clashes since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas.

The head of American diplomacy Antony Blinken and his French counterpart, Catherine Colonna, exchanged on Wednesday to work to “avoid escalation in Lebanon and Iran” after attacks in these two Middle Eastern countries, the US State Department.

Tensions are also increasing in Syria and Iraq, where American bases are being targeted, but also in the Red Sea, where Yemen’s Houthi rebels are carrying out attacks to slow down maritime traffic in “support” of Gaza.

In addition to airstrikes and ground fighting, Gazans face severe shortages of food, water, fuel and medicine as humanitarian aid trickles into the besieged territory.

In the Gaza Strip, some 1.9 million people, or 85 percent of the 2.3 million population, have been forced to leave their homes to flee fighting and bombardment, according to the Gaza Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. UN (OCHA).

On Thursday, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk said he was “very troubled” after comments from two Israeli ministers calling on Palestinians to leave Gaza, raising fears of forced eviction. The comments of the two Israeli ministers were also denounced by the United States, France, the European Union as well as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait.