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Israel expands Gaza operation as mediator says hostage deal 'close'

Thirty-one premature babies were evacuated from Gaza's biggest hospital
— Gaza Strip (Palestinian Territories) (AFP)

Israeli troops were "expanding" their operation in the Gaza Strip Monday, as Qatari mediators said they were inching closer to a deal to free some of the 240 hostages held by Hamas militants.

Israel has warned residents of Gaza's largest refugee camp Jabalia and a nearby coastal camp to evacuate, as the military said Sunday it was "expanding its operational activities in additional neighbourhoods... of the Gaza Strip."

After intense bombardment, an AFP journalist in Gaza saw columns of smoke rising from Jabalia on Sunday.

A Hamas health official said more than 80 people were killed in twin strikes on Jabalia on Saturday, including on a UN school sheltering displaced people.

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