Israeli tanks attacked areas around two hospitals in the main southern Gaza city of Khan Younis on Thursday, forcing displaced people to rush to find safe shelter, residents said, part of a growing offensive which Israel says targets Hamas militants.
Gaza health officials said at least 50 Palestinians were killed in Khan Younis in the past 24 hours, including two children, in an Israeli airstrike that hit a house.
Most of the Gaza Strip’s 2.3 million residents are now concentrated in Khan Younis and towns just north and south of it, after being driven from its northern half at the start of the campaign Israeli military, which is now in its fourth month.
Khan Younis is surrounded by Israeli armored forces and subjected to almost incessant air and ground fire, residents say, and a huge column of mushroom-like smoke rose into the sky from areas of Israeli military operations on Thursday .
Palestinian medics said Israeli tanks cut the road and shelled targets around the city’s two main still-operating hospitals, Nasser and Al-Amal, trapping medical teams, patients and displaced people sheltering. inside or near it.
“The surroundings of the Nasser Medical Complex are under intense artillery bombardment and Israeli forces are firing heavily in open areas and towards buildings, endangering the lives of everyone there,” said Ashraf Al-Qidra, Gaza spokesperson. The Ministry of Health.
Israel claims Hamas militants are using the hospital premises as cover for their bases, something the Islamist group and medical staff deny.
The Israeli army’s siege of Khan Younis’ main hospitals, part of what it calls an escalating campaign to eliminate militants in the main Hamas stronghold south of Gaza, has made it almost impossible for rescue teams to to reach the injured or recover the dead.
On Wednesday, the United Nations said Israeli tanks hit a large UN compound in Gaza housing displaced Palestinians, killing at least nine people and injuring 75 others. Israel denied its forces were responsible, suggesting Hamas could have launched the bombings. He said he was looking into the incident.
Israel said Hamas had “command and control centers, outposts and security headquarters” nearby, which it described as “a dense area” of civilians, as well as military headquarters. several hospitals where the militants were active, according to him.
Friday deadline to flee UN compound
On Thursday, tens of thousands of displaced Palestinians sheltering in the compound prepared to flee to Rafah, 15 kilometers away in southern Gaza, after nearby Israeli tanks ordered all civilians inside to leave, UN officials said.
Israeli forces had set a deadline of 5 p.m. Friday for the evacuation of the U.N. compound, said Juliette Touma, chief spokesperson for the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees. More than 30,000 people were gathered inside the compound, she estimated.
There was no immediate comment from the Israeli military.
At least 25,700 people have been killed in Gaza, one of the most densely populated places in the world, according to Palestinian health officials, and large swaths of the heavily built-up enclave have been razed by Israeli bombardment.
According to the Israeli government, approximately 1,200 people were killed in the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7, including Israeli security forces and civilians, as well as foreign nationals. Around 250 other people were taken hostage.
The Israeli army said Thursday it had killed more than 9,000 Hamas militants and lost 220 soldiers in the three-and-a-half month war. Hamas has rejected Israel’s figures on militant deaths.
In its latest update, the Israeli military said forces carried out raids with precision airstrikes and snipers to destroy several Hamas command centers and militant locations in Khan Younis, including in Al Amal district.
“During close combat, the soldiers eliminated the terrorists and various weapons were discovered in the process,” the statement said.
Calls for ceasefire
Despite international calls for a ceasefire to spare civilians, Israel has pledged to continue its operations until Hamas is eradicated and all hostages are freed.
Hamas says any agreement must depend on Israel ending its offensive and siege and withdrawing from the Gaza Strip.
Mediated negotiations on a month-long truce that could see the release of hostages against Palestinian prisoners in Israel have resumed, but have been stalled by the two sides’ differences over how to end the war, reports said. sources at Reuters.
The fate of hostages held by Hamas remains a pressing political issue in Israel, with families loudly demanding their release.
On Thursday, a small group of people – which the Times of Israel newspaper reports included relatives of hostages — organized a demonstration at the Kerem Shalom crossing, where humanitarian trucks can pass from Israel to Gaza.
The conflict in Gaza threatens to destabilize the Middle East, stoking hostilities stretching from the Israeli-occupied West Bank to the Israel-Lebanon border region, Syria, Iraq and the Red Sea shipping lanes crucial for international trade.
In the West Bank, the Palestinian Health Ministry, which exercises limited autonomy, said Thursday that at least 370 people had been killed in Israeli army raids or clashes with Palestinian militants since October 7.