Israel commits Gaza massacres to cover…
Ismail Haniyeh, the chief of the Palestinian militant group Hamas, on Wednesday accused Israel of committing "massacres" in the Gaza war to cover its own "defeats". Israel is "committing barbaric massacres against unarmed civilians", Haniyeh said in a speech broadcast by Al Jazeera, adding that "its villainy will not save them from resounding defeat".
Haniyeh also claimed that Israeli hostages held in the besieged Gaza Strip were subject to the same "death and destruction" that Palestinians have faced.
Hamas has told mediators that it was necessary for the "massacre" to stop and called on people to continue protesting, particularly in the West, to mount pressure on decision-makers, Haniyeh said in a recorded video message.
Haniyeh also said it is important for the Rafah border crossing to continue operations in both directions. Haniyeh's statement came even as a first group of civilian evacuees from Gaza crossed into Egypt under a Qatari-mediated deal on Wednesday while Israeli forces bombed the Palestinian enclave from land, sea and air as they a pressed their offensive against Hamas militants.
The evacuees, who had been trapped in Gaza since the start of the war more than three weeks ago, were driven in ambulances through the Rafah border crossing.
Under the deal reached between Egypt, Israel and Hamas, a number of foreign nationals and critically wounded people will be allowed to leave the besieged territory.
Despite the breakthrough on the humanitarian front, Israeli warplanes, naval boats and artillery pounded Gaza throughout the night, inflicting scores more casualties among the civilian population, Palestinian residents said.
An Egyptian security source earlier told news agency Reuters that up to 500 foreign passport holders would pass through the Rafah crossing on Wednesday. About 200 people were waiting at the Palestinian side of the border.
A second source said not all were expected to make it out on Wednesday and there was no timeline for how long the crossing would remain open.
A Western official said a list of people with foreign passports who can leave Gaza had been agreed between Israel and Egypt. An Israeli official confirmed that Israel was coordinating the exits with Egypt, Reuters reported.
Indonesia said it was trying to get out 10 nationals but three of them, volunteers at an Indonesia-run hospital, have decided to stay. The Philippines, Jordan and Italy also said they said they hoped to bring citizens out on Wednesday.
The Hamas attack on southern Israel on October 7 that triggered the hostilities killed about 300 soldiers and 1,100 civilians, said Israel. The Gaza health ministry said at least 8,796 Palestinians, including 3,648 children, have been killed in Israeli strikes on Gaza since then.
(With inputs from agencies)