Egypt launches new phase of ‘100 Million Trees’ initiative

GAZA STRIP, PA: Explosions, airstrikes and gunfire rocked the northern Gaza Strip on Saturday, the third day of an Israeli military operation that has displaced tens of thousands of Palestinians and worsened living conditions in the territory that the United Nations has described as “unbearable.”
An AFP correspondent reported ongoing explosions in the Shujaiya area near Gaza City; one resident said that the victims’ bodies could be seen in the streets.
The Israeli military said Saturday it was continuing operations in the city of Shujaiya, where fighting “above and underground” has claimed a “large number” of militant casualties.
The resurgence of fighting in the area comes months after Israel announced it was disbanding the command structure of Hamas fighters in northern Gaza.
Last Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the “intense phase” of the war was coming to an end after nearly nine months, but experts believe the next phase could drag on.
The war in Gaza has also led to a sharp rise in tensions on Israel’s northern border with Lebanon, prompting Iran to warn Saturday of a “devastating” war if Israel attacks Lebanon.
According to AFP data based on Israeli data, the war began on October 7 with a Hamas attack on southern Israel, which killed 1,195 people, mostly civilians.
The militants also took hostages, 116 of whom are still in the Gaza Strip, although the army reports 42 of them are dead.
In the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, at least 37,834 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in Israel’s retaliatory offensive, according to health ministry data. At least 69 deaths have been reported in the past 48 hours.
Mohammed Harara, 30, said he and his family, young and old, felt as if they would become part of this toll.
He said they fled their home in Shujaiya with nothing, “due to the bombings of Israeli planes, tanks and drones” that led them to a miracle and a miracle.
“We couldn’t take anything from the house. We left food, flour, canned goods, mattresses and blankets,” Harara said.
On Friday, the Israeli military said it was carrying out “targeted airstrikes” supported by airstrikes against Hamas militants in the Shujaiya area.
The UN humanitarian agency OCHA estimated that “some 60,000-80,000 people” have been displaced from the area this week.
AFPTV photos from Saturday showed men carrying items on a cart pulled by a donkey. Some people were pushed in wheelchairs. Children walked with backpacks past piles of dusty rubble.
“I saw a tank in front of the Shuhada Mosque firing at targets,” Abdelkareem Al-Mamluk said. “There were martyrs on the street.”
On Friday, Hamas and the armed wing of the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad said they were fighting in Shujaiya.
Elsewhere on the coast, the civil defense agency said Saturday that four bodies had been recovered from an apartment after an Israeli attack in the central region.
Further south, in the Rafah area, witnesses reported dead and wounded after a new Israeli attack.
Tarek Qandeel, director of the medical center in Al-Maghazi in central Gaza, said the facility was severely damaged in the bombing of a neighboring house, making it the latest medical facility in Gaza to be affected by the war.
The United Nations in a report on Friday, citing Gaza’s health ministry, said that “about 70 percent of the health infrastructure has been destroyed.”
UN spokeswoman Louise Wateridge also said via video link that she had just returned to central Gaza after four weeks outside Gaza.
“It’s truly unbearable,” she said, describing a “significantly worse” situation.
“There is no water, no sewage, no food,” and people are returning to live in “empty shells” of buildings.
With a lack of bathrooms, “they’re relieving themselves wherever they can,” Wateridge said.
The UN says most of Gaza’s population has been displaced, but the effects of the war have also displaced people on both sides of the Israel-Lebanon border, where the Lebanese Hezbollah movement and Israeli forces have engaged in almost daily exchanges of fire.
Such exchanges have intensified this month, with belligerent rhetoric on both sides.
The Israeli military stated that plans for an offensive in Lebanon had been “approved and confirmed”, prompting Hezbollah to respond that no Israeli would be spared in a full-blown conflict.
In a social media post Saturday, Iran’s mission to the United Nations in New York said it “considers psychological warfare” to be Israeli threats to “attack” Lebanon.
But he added that such a move would lead to a “devastating” war that could involve “all resistance fronts,” a reference to Iran-backed groups in the region.
Among them are Houthi fighters from Yemen, who have been attacking international shipping in the Red Sea for months. The Houthis say they are acting in solidarity with the Palestinians.
The Houthis said on Friday they had scored a “direct hit” on a tanker in the Red Sea, but the maritime security agency run by the Royal Navy said no damage was reported.
The U.S. Navy has retaliated against Houthi targets for such attacks, and on Friday the U.S. military said its forces had destroyed seven drones and a control station vehicle in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen over the previous day.

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