Hamas 'will work to release hostages', as Israel to step up attacks

The Israeli military says it will increase its strikes on Gaza, Natalia Jorquera reports

A second convoy of humanitarian aid has entered the Gaza strip, Egyptian media reports, as Israel steps up attacks on the strip.

They say a convoy of 17 trucks bringing aid to besieged Palestinians crossed into Gaza.

It comes after the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees says it will run out of fuel in Gaza in three days.

“Without fuel, there will be no water, no functioning hospitals and bakeries. Without fuel, aid will not reach many civilians in desperate need. Without fuel, there will be no humanitarian assistance,” Philippe Lazzarini, the UNRWA Commissioner General, said in a statement Sunday.

A first delivery of aid that was allowed to cross into Gaza from Egypt on Saturday did not include any fuel. 

Earlier a Hamas official said the group will work with mediators to release all civilian hostages - but it comes as Israel said it plans to step up attacks on Gaza.

Osama Hamdan, a top Hamas official in exile, told a news conference in Beirut, Lebanon: "We confirm that we will work with all the mediators to carry out the group's decision to close the case of civilians held in case the security circumstances allow that."

But he added: "We also blame on the occupation the responsibility of their safety with the fascist bombardment that is continuing on Gaza."

Hamas released US citizens Judith Raanan and her 17-year-old daughter Natalie on Friday for what it said were humanitarian reasons in an agreement with Qatar.

Judith Raanan, right, and her 17-year-old daughter Natalie have been freed Credit: Government of Israel via AP

But the Hamas official's announcement comes as airstrikes targeted the Nuseirat refugee camp in the Gaza strip on Saturday night.

Seven people have died and dozens are injured.

Israel’s military spokesman said that Israel plans to intensify attacks starting Saturday as preparation for the next stage of its war.

For days, Israel has seemed to be on the verge of launching a ground offensive in Gaza as part of its response to Hamas' deadly Oct. 7 rampage. Tanks and tens of thousands of troops have massed at the border, and Israeli leaders have spoken of an undefined next stage in operations.

Also early on Sunday, Israeli aircraft struck a compound beneath a mosque in the occupied West Bank. At least one person was killed.

Israel said the compound beneach al-Ansar Mosque, in Jenin refugee camp, belonged to operatives from Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

A wall in Tel Aviv with photos of Israelis missing and held captive in Gaza. Credit: AP

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also visited troops stationed near the border with Lebanon, where the Israeli army and Iran-backed Hezbollah militants have traded fire during the war.

He said Israel would react more fiercely than it did during its short 2006 war with Hezbollah, if the exchanges of fire escalated further.

“If Hezbollah decides to enter the war, it will miss the Second Lebanon War. It will make the mistake of its life. We will cripple it with a force it cannot even imagine and the consequences for it and the Lebanese state are devastating,” the Israeli leader said.

Hamas' release of the American mum and daughter appeared to prompt the opening of the Egypt-Gaza border crossing on Saturday, as 20 lorries with aid for Palestinians crossed into the strip - out of more than 200 lorries waiting near the border.

According to Gaza-based doctors, hospitals in the Gaza Strip are nearing collapse under the Israeli blockade that cut power and deliveries of food and other necessities to the territory. Fuel for their generators is dwindling.

The 20 lorries that crossed into Gaza on Saturday brought much-needed food, water and medicine.

A Palestinian woman holds her cousin killed in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip in Rafah on October 21 Credit: AP

Four of the lorries were carrying drugs and medical supplies, the World Health Organization said. Aid workers and doctors warned it was not enough to address Gaza’s spiralling humanitarian crisis.

Violence has surged since Hamas gunmen from Gaza carried out a deadly rampage in Israel on October 7 - and killed over 1,400 people and abducted more than 200 others.

More than 4,300 people have been killed in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry.

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