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War on Gaza: Israeli forces make arrests in Nasser Hospital, as Rafah and Deir al-Balah bombed

Meanwhile, Biden administration set to continue selling arms to Israel while simultaneously pushing for a ceasefire in Gaza
Displaced Palestinians camp near the border fence between Gaza and Egypt, on 16 February 2024 in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip (Mohammed Abed/AFP)
Displaced Palestinians camp near the border fence between Gaza and Egypt, on 16 February 2024 in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip (Mohammed Abed/AFP)

Israeli forces on Saturday carried out arrests in Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, the largest medical facility still functioning in the besieged enclave.

The facility was raided by Israeli forces on Thursday, and areas within its vicinity have come under repeated attacks in recent days.

"The occupation forces [Israeli army] detained a large number of medical staff members inside Nasser Medical Complex, which they turned into a military base," Ashraf al-Qudra, the Palestinian health ministry's spokesperson, said on Saturday. 

The Israeli military said it was looking for fighters in the hospital and had arrested 100 suspects there. The military also said it killed gunmen near the hospital and found weapons inside it.

Hamas has denied allegations that its fighters operate in medical facilities. 

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About 10,000 people were sheltering at Nasser Hospital earlier in the week, but many have since left due to Israel's raid, the health ministry said.

The arrests came as scores of civilians were killed and wounded on Saturday after Israeli air strikes pummelled various areas across the Gaza Strip, according to Wafa news agency.

At least 10 people were killed and 20 wounded as Israeli jets bombed houses in the Zaytoun and Sabra neighbourhoods of Gaza City.

In southern Gaza's Rafah, at least six people were killed and nine others wounded after Israeli forces targeted the Shaboura refugee camp. Elsewhere in the south, Khan Younis was also hit by air strikes.

There were also reports of Israeli artillery fire in central Gaza's Deir al-Balah and Sheikh Radwan towards the north. 

US continues arms sales to Israel

Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden's administration is preparing to send arms to Israel even as Washington pushes for a ceasefire in Gaza, according to a report on Friday in the Wall Street Journal citing current and former US officials.

The planned weapons delivery includes MK-82 bombs and KMU-572 Joint Direct Attack Munitions that add precision guidance to bombs, as well as FMU-139 bomb fuses.

The value of the arms is estimated to be in the "tens of millions of dollars", according to the report. 

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The delivery is still being reviewed internally by Washington, according to a US official, who said the details of the proposal could change before the government notifies congressional committee leaders for approval.

The Biden administration has been criticised for continuing to arm Israel despite allegations that American-made weapons have killed civilians in Gaza.

At the end of last year, the administration skipped two congressional reviews of arms sales to Israel.

In Munich, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said there was "an extraordinary opportunity" in the coming months for Israel to normalise ties with its Arab neighbours.

"Virtually every Arab country now genuinely wants to integrate Israel into the region to normalise relations... to provide security commitments and assurances so that Israel can feel more safe," Blinken said on Saturday during a panel discussion at the annual Munich Security Conference.

"And there's also, I think the imperative, that's more urgent than ever, to proceed to a Palestinian state that also ensures the security of Israel," he added.

For several months, the Biden administration has been working to secure a deal to normalise relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel. Riyadh has said that it will not normalise ties without the creation of an indepedent Palestinian state. 

Israeli delegation to negotiate in Qatar

A delegation of Israeli officials is due to arrive in Qatar next week to negotiate a new prisoner exchange deal, according to a report in Israel's Channel 13.

The delegation will be given "a specific mandate to formulate a response to Hamas's demands before the mediators, according to the circumstances that will arise in the negotiations", the report said.

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Despite several weeks of negotiations, there has been no breakthrough on a second truce deal.

Earlier this month, Hamas proposed a three-stage ceasefire deal that would last 135 days, lead to the end of Israel's war on Gaza and the exchange of Israeli captives for Palestinian prisoners. 

Outside of Gaza, Yemen's Houthis have claimed responsibility for an attack on the oil tanker M/T Pollux.

"The naval forces of the Yemeni Armed Forces carried out a targeting operation against a British oil ship (Pollux) in the Red Sea with a large number of appropriate naval missiles," Houthi military spokesperson Yahya Sarea said in a statement on Saturday, adding the strikes "were accurate and direct".

US Central Command (Centcom) said earlier in the day that four anti-ship ballistic missiles were launched from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen into the Red Sea on Friday.

Centcom said that at least three of the missiles were launched towards the M/T Pollux, which it said was a Panamanian-flagged, Denmark-owned, Panamanian-registered vessel.

There were no reported injuries, the statement added.

The Houthis have launched several drone and missile attacks on vessels in the Red Sea and the Bab al-Mandab Strait since November, as an act of solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza.

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