Israel says it found hostage traces in Hamas tunnel, fighting rages in central Gaza, post-war plans

Hostage traces discovered in Hamas tunnel

The Israeli military said on Wednesday it had found traces of hostages in an underground tunnel in the southern city of Khan Younis in Gaza, where fighting continues.

Journalists were escorted by the military to the tunnel, hidden under a tin hut in a residential yard surrounded by the ruins of destroyed homes and streets.

Inside the tunnel, which was reportedly hot and humid and whose walls were lined with electrical wire, the Israeli military said it had found evidence the hostages had been there, including their DNA.

“Hostages were held here in this tunnel system,” said Daniel Hagari, the Israeli army’s chief spokesman.

Israeli soldiers show journalists an underground tunnel where the Israeli military said it had found evidence hostages were held by militants in Khan Younis on Wednesday.

The military offered no details on what exactly was found in the tunnel nor did it identify any of the hostages who had allegedly been there. 

Hagari only said they were held in the tunnel in “difficult condition”, but did not say whether they were now dead or alive.

Several of the Israeli hostages freed during a ceasefire in November said they were held inside Hamas’ tunnels.

Fighting rages in Gaza

Khan Younis, Gaza’s second-largest city, has become the focus of Israel’s war against the Palestinian militant group in recent weeks.

On Wednesday, the Israeli military operations were still ongoing in the city and urban refugee camps in central Gaza.

An Israeli strike brought down a two-storey building in the central city of Deir al-Balah on Wednesday, near the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital.

At least 20 people were killed in the attack, according to hospital officials. 

Another strike in the city killed six people in an ambulance, including four crew members, detailed a medical aid group.

Top US diplomat tackles Gaza post-war plans

Antony Blinken has visited the Middle East, seeking a post-war plan for Gaza that would include making concrete steps for the creation of a Palestinian state.

On Wednesday, the US Secretary of State spoke with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas about reforming the Palestinian Authority governing Gaza once the war against Hamas is over.

But there are obstacles to Blinken’s plan, even if he manages to convince Abbas and rally other Arab countries behind the idea.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government strongly opposes the creation of a Palestinian state. 

Palestinians in Gaza do not recognise the legitimacy of the autocratic, Western-backed Palestinian leadership driven away from Gaza by Hamas in 2007.

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