US seeks safety for Gaza civilians as Israel unrelenting in attacks

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A United States security envoy had talks with Israel about shifting its strategy in Gaza toward surgical operations against Hamas and away from a broad ground campaign, as Palestinians reported heavy attacks along the narrow coastal strip on Friday.

Israeli tanks and planes intensified their bombardment of the northern Gaza, as well as Khan Younis and Rafah in the south of the enclave, residents, authorities and media said.

Four people, including two children, were killed and several others wounded in an Israeli air strike on a house in Khan Younis early on Friday, Palestinian health officials said.

Official Palestinian news agency WAFA said overnight Israeli airstrikes on Khan Younis and Rafah killed or injured tens of people. One of the strikes hit a housing block near the Kuwaiti hospital in Rafah, WAFA added.

Live video footage looking into southern Gaza from Israel after dawn on Friday showed thick, black plumes of smoke rising into the air. The cause of the smoke was not immediately known.

Israeli special forces said on Friday they had recovered the body of hostage Elia Toledano, 28, who had been held by Hamas since Oct. 7 after being taken from an outdoor music festival. The military said an “identification procedure” had been carried out by medical officials, military rabbis and forensic experts.

Israel has been pounding the 40-km length of Gaza with no sign of a pause in hostilities or a ceasefire that would enable delivery of more desperately needed basic supplies for civilians to survive as their homes have been destroyed.

Israel launched its military campaign in Gaza in retaliation for a rampage by Hamas, the Iran-backed group that rules Gaza, whose fighters killed 1,200 Israelis and seized 240 hostages in a cross-border raid on October 7.

Israeli forces have besieged the coastal strip and laid much of it to waste, with nearly 19,000 people confirmed dead, according to Palestinian health officials, and thousands more feared buried under the rubble.