US troops head to region as fears grow of Gaza war's spread

Troop reinforcements from Israel's ally the United States headed to the region on Saturday, with fears of wider war growing more than six months into Israel's assault in the Gaza Strip.

After pulling forces from the southern Gaza city of Khan Yunis one week ago, Israel's military said Saturday it was continuing to operate against militants in central Gaza.

In central Gaza's main city of Deir al-Balah, fire burned in the rubble of a destroyed mosque.

Israel's military "demanded that the whole area be evacuated" before it was "wiped out in minutes", said Abdullah Baraka, a witness.

The military said it had struck more than 30 targets across the Palestinian territory over the previous day.

Airlines said they are avoiding Iranian airspace, nearly two weeks after a strike, which Iran blamed on its arch foe Israel, destroyed Tehran's consular annex at its embassy in Damascus, Syria.

Violence involving Iran-backed groups around the Middle East, including in Lebanon, Yemen and Syria, has increased since Israeli forces began their retaliation against Hamas militants in Gaza for their Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

 West Bank violence 

Tensions have also flared in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where settler attacks left at least one Palestinian dead and dozens injured, and a search continued for a missing Israeli teenager, sources from both sides said.

As talks for a Gaza truce and hostage release dragged on, the region braced for the retaliation which Iran has vowed after the consular strike whose victims included two generals.

"We are moving additional assets to the region to bolster regional deterrence efforts and increase force protection for U.S. forces," said a U.S. defence official in...

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