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Explainer-Gaza war after six months

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(Reuters) – Six months since Hamas gunmen stormed into southern Israel on a killing spree, Israel’s ground campaign to annihilate the Islamist movement has turned much of the Gaza Strip into a wasteland with an unfolding humanitarian catastrophe.

Mediators have been trying to organise the first extended truce of the war to rush in aid to feed the Palestinian territory’s 2.3 million people and secure the release of some of the Israeli hostages still held by Hamas.

Here is a look at the issues raised by the war and the prospects for peace.

HOW DID THE WAR START?

On Oct. 7, hundreds of gunmen crossed a border fence that Israel had believed was impregnable, and stormed through communities, gunning down Israelis in homes, cars and at an all-night music festival. Israel says 1,200 people were killed in the deadliest day for Jews since the Holocaust. The attackers brought 253 hostages, including whole families with small children, back to Gaza. Although military bases were attacked, most of the dead were civilians.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu swore vengeance.

WHAT HAS HAPPENED IN GAZA?

Israel’s ground assault began in the northern half of the Gaza Strip and hundreds of thousands of residents were ordered to evacuate and flee south. After a week-long ceasefire at the end of November, Israeli forces turned their attention to the south, again ordering people to flee.

Since February, Israeli forces have patrolled nearly all of Gaza, apart from a small area in the centre and the city of Rafah on the southern edge, where more than half of Gaza’s population is now sheltering.

Gaza’s health authorities say about 33,000 Palestinians have been confirmed killed, around 40 percent of them children, with thousands more bodies lost under rubble not recovered. More than 70,000 have been wounded, meaning around 5% of the population has been killed or injured, not counting deaths from hunger, unsanitary conditions and the collapse of health care.

Israel says it has killed more than 13,000 Hamas fighters, and blames militants for harm to civilians for operating among them, including from a network of underground bunkers and tunnels. Hamas denies its fighters operate among civilians.

CAN AID REACH GAZA?

At the outset of the war, Israel imposed a total blockade. Gradually it allowed in aid, first through a pedestrian checkpoint from Egypt, then also through a nearby road checkpoint from Israel itself.

Israel says it imposes no limits on food and humanitarian supplies, but…

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