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Palestinians carry belongings as people fleeing conflict leave their homes, in the Al-Nusseirat refugee camp in central Gaza on April 12.-/Getty Images

Israeli forces fought Palestinian militants in the north and centre of the Gaza Strip on Friday as Khaled Meshaal, a senior official in Gaza’s ruling Hamas movement, said its six-month-old battle with Israel would “break the enemy soon”.

Most Israeli troops have been pulled out of the Palestinian enclave in preparation for an assault on its southernmost city Rafah, where more than 1 million Palestinians are sheltering, but fighting has continued in various areas.

Residents of Al-Nusseirat camp in central Gaza said dozens were dead or wounded after Israeli bombardment from air, land and sea that had followed a surprise ground assault on Thursday, and that houses and two mosques had been destroyed.

Health officials said earlier that six people had been killed in strikes on the cinder-block camp, which has housed Palestinian refugee families since 1948, with around 70 wounded, including three Palestinian journalists.

In Gaza City, Palestinian health officials said at least 25 people had been killed and several wounded in an Israeli air strike on a house in the Al-Daraj neighbourhood. Gaza’s health ministry said 89 Palestinians had been killed by Israeli military strikes in the space of 24 hours.

The Israeli military (IDF) said in a statement that it was pursuing “a precise intelligence-based operation” against militants and their infrastructure in central Gaza.

“Over the past day, IDF fighter jets struck over 60 terror targets in the Gaza Strip, including underground launch posts, military infrastructure and sites in which armed terrorists operated,” it said. “In parallel, IDF artillery struck terrorist infrastructure in the central Gaza Strip.”

In a statement, Hamas said Israel’s bombardment in Al-Nusseirat targeted civilian homes and property “after failing to achieve any military accomplishment on the ground or to implement any of its criminal agendas by displacing our people”.

Israel denies deliberately targeting civilians, accusing Hamas of using residential buildings for cover. Hamas denies this.

Meshaal, who lives in exile and heads Hamas’ political office in the diaspora, spoke at an event in Doha, Qatar to mourn members of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh’s family killed in an Israeli air strike in Gaza on Wednesday.

“This is not the final round,” Meshaal said, referring to the current war. “It is an important round on the path of liberating Palestine and defeating the Zionist project.”

At least 33,634 Palestinians, including 89 in the past 24 hours, have been killed since the Israeli offensive began, Gaza’s health ministry said in an update on Friday, with most of the 2.3 million population displaced and much of the densely populated enclave demolished.

The war began when Hamas led a lightning cross-border attack into southern Israel on Oct. 7 in which 1,200 people were killed and 253 taken hostage. Around 130 are still being held incommunicado in Gaza, Israel says.

Deflecting repeated U.S. calls for restraint, Israel vows to storm Rafah because, it says, significant Hamas combat forces are hiding there after being routed elsewhere.

In the latest sign that an Israeli assault on Rafah could be imminent, warplanes dropped leaflets on a western neighbourhood asking for information about the hostages.

“To residents of Tel Al-Sultan, look carefully around you, the hostages could be somewhere near you. If you want to protect your families and your future, don’t hesitate to provide us with any information about the hostages and their captors,” the leaflets read.

The Israeli military did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Also, the first trucks carrying food aid entered Gaza through the newly opened northern crossing point on Thursday, the military said on Friday, as Israel stepped up supplies following mounting pressure to ease the humanitarian crisis in the enclave.

It said the trucks were inspected at the Kerem Shalom crossing point on the border with Egypt before moving north to cross. Israel had said earlier this month it would reopen the Erez crossing point that had been closed since the start of the war with Hamas last October.

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Trucks carrying humanitarian aid preparing to enter the Gaza Strip on April 12.-/Getty Images

Meanwhile, Israeli forces shot dead two Palestinians, including a member of the armed wing of Hamas, in raids in the occupied West Bank on Friday and the Palestinian Health Ministry reported at least one person was killed in an Israeli settler rampage near Ramallah.

The Israeli military said Mohammad Omar Daraghmeh, whom it described as the head of Hamas infrastructure in the Tubas area of the Jordan valley was killed during an exchange of fire with security forces. It said a number of weapons and military-style equipment, including automatic rifles were found in his vehicle.

Hamas confirmed Daraghmeh’s death and his membership of its armed Al Qassam Brigades.

The official Palestinian news agency WAFA said another man was killed by Israeli forces conducting a raid in the Al-Far’a refugee camp in Tubas. Hamas mourned the man’s death but did not claim him as a member.

The military said forces carrying out the operation opened fire on Palestinians who threw explosive devices and killed one man it said was attempting to attack them.

Israel has stepped up military raids in the West Bank since launching an unrelenting assault on Gaza following a Hamas-led Oct. 7 attack on its southern communities and military bases.

Later on Friday, the Palestinian Health Ministry said one person was shot dead in al-Mughayyer near the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah as residents reported of dozens of Jewish settlers rampaging through their village. It was not immediately clear whether he was shot by Israeli forces or settlers.

The Palestine Red Crescent said at least 10 people were wounded, most of them by live fire, and that some ambulances trying to reach the area were shot at.

The head of al-Mughayyer’s local council, Ameen Abu Alia, said settlers had previously attacked the village but Friday’s raid was the most intense, with some 400 armed settlers, backed by military forces, firing at residents, vandalizing the village and setting several houses and cars ablaze.

He said they were still assessing the damage when the Israeli military put the village under strict closure, placing a checkpoint at its only entrance.

In unverified videos circulating on social media, gunshots could be heard and heavy smoke was seen rising from a car set ablaze as residents called for help.

The Israeli military said it forces put up roadblocks and launched a search for a 14-year-old who had gone missing in the area, who police described as a Jewish resident of Jerusalem.

During the searches, security forces took action to disperse violent riots in the area, the military said, adding that rocks were hurled at soldiers who responded with fire and that “hits were identified”.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, condemned Friday’s settler attack and demanded urgent international intervention, particularly by the United States.

Since the start of the Gaza war, Palestinian Health Ministry records show at least 460 Palestinians in the West Bank have been killed by Israeli forces or settlers, among them armed fighters from militant groups.

In the same period, at least 13 Israelis, among them two members of Israeli forces, have been killed by Palestinians in the West Bank, according to an Israeli tally.

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