Fighting persists in Khan Younis on the 117th day of the Israel-Hamas war. As the Israeli army continues to flood Hamas’ tunnel networks, international calls to save UNRWA are growing.

Israel’s army began flooding Hamas’ network of tunnels as intense fighting rages in Gaza, with the UN warning of the potential “collapse of the humanitarian system” in the territory after a funding row hit its Palestinian aid agency.

The epicentre of the fighting in recent weeks has been Khan Younis, southern Gaza’s main city, where vast areas have been reduced to a muddy wasteland of bombed-out buildings, and where an AFP journalist witnessed people leaving town on Tuesday as explosions sounded nearby.

Gaza Metro

Elsewhere in the city, Israeli troops gave journalists a tour of a tunnel they said had been used as a Hamas command center.

The Israeli military, which dubbed the vast network of tunnels “the Gaza metro,” said on Tuesday that it had begun flooding the underground complexes with water in a bid to “neutralize the threat of Hamas’ subterranean network.”

(FILES) This picture taken during a media tour organized by the Israeli military on December 15, 2023, shows a tunnel that Hamas reportedly used to attack Israel through the Erez border crossing on October 7. (Jack GUEZ, AFP)

The war was touched off by Hamas’s October 7 attacks on Israel, which resulted in the deaths of around 1,140 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.

About 250 foreign and Israeli hostages were also dragged to Gaza during the October 7 attack, of whom around 132 are still there. That figure includes the bodies of at least 28 people believed to have been killed.

Following the Hamas attack, Israel launched a withering air, land and sea offensive in Gaza that killed at least 26,751 people, mostly women and children, according to the Health Ministry in the Hamas-run territory.


The war displaced the vast majority of Gaza’s population, according to the UN, which warned that the humanitarian crisis in the besieged territory would only get worse if major donors didn’t restore funding to UNRWA, its main aid agency for Palestinians.

Israel alleged that several agency staff members took part in the October 7 attacks, leading thirteen key donor countries including the United States and Germany to suspend funding.

The heads of several UN agencies, including the WHO, the UN rights office, UNICEF and the World Food Program, later issued a statement warning that defunding UNRWA would “have catastrophic consequences for the people of Gaza.”

Washington, which said it had given $131 million to UNRWA since October, said it “very much supported” the agency’s work.

Truce Proposal

After a recent meeting in Paris between US, Israeli, Egyptian and Qatari officials yielded a proposed framework for a truce, Hamas confirmed on Tuesday that it had received the proposal and was “in the process of examining it and delivering its response.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose office earlier called the talks “constructive,” ruled out releasing “thousands” of Palestinian prisoners as part of any deal.

“I would like to make it clear… We will not withdraw the army from the Gaza Strip, and we will not release thousands of terrorists. None of this will happen,” he said on Tuesday.

With AFP