Israeli air strikes on residential blocks in south Gaza killed at least 47 people on Saturday, medics said, while the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency said scores more had been killed and wounded at a school in the north sheltering displaced civilians.
The latest bloodshed came after Israel again warned civilians to relocate as it girds for an onslaught against Hamas in the enclave’s south, after subduing the north.
“Receiving horrifying images & footage of scores of people killed and injured in another @UNRWA school sheltering thousands of displaced in the north of the Gaza Strip,” UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini said on social media platform X.
“These attacks cannot become commonplace, they must stop. A humanitarian ceasefire cannot wait any longer.”
Israel’s military did not immediately comment. A spokesperson for Gaza’s Hamas authorities said 200 people had been killed or injured.
Palestinian officials had earlier accused the Israeli army of forcibly evacuating most staff, patients and displaced people from the Al Shifa Hospital in the north, Gaza’s largest, and abandoning them to perilous journeys southwards on foot.
Israeli forces denied the accusation, saying evacuations were voluntary. They seized Al Shifa hospital in their offensive across north Gaza earlier this week, saying it concealed an underground Hamas command centre.
ASSAULT ON SOUTH LOOMS
Israel vowed to annihilate Hamas, which controls the coastal enclave, after the militant group’s October 7 rampage into Israel in which its fighters killed 1,200 people and took 240 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.
Since then, Israel has bombed to rubble much of Gaza City – the enclave’s urban heart – ordering civilians in the north to leave and displacing around two-thirds of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million.
Gaza authorities on Saturday raised their death toll since October 7 to 12,300, including 5,000 children. The United Nations deems those figures credible, though they are now updated only infrequently as war devastation has hampered communications.
The Israeli military said five of its soldiers had been killed in Gaza since Friday, bringing its losses since entering the territory to 57.
A senior aide to Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged Palestinian civilians on Friday to relocate away from Khan Younis, at the southern end of the Strip, as Israeli forces would have to advance into the city to oust Hamas fighters dug into underground tunnels and bunkers – suggesting an Israeli ground offensive into the south was imminent.
Such an offensive could compel hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who fled the Israeli storming of Gaza City in the north to uproot again, along with residents of Khan Younis, a city of more than 400,000, compounding a dire humanitarian crisis.
The pending Israeli advance into south Gaza may prove more complicated and deadlier than in the north, however, with militants dug into the Khan Younis region, a senior Israeli source and two top ex-officials said.
Overnight on Saturday, 26 Palestinians were killed and 23 wounded by an air strike on two apartments in a multi-storey block in a busy residential district of Khan Younis, according to health officials.
Eyad Al-Zaeem told Reuters he lost his aunt, her children and her grandchildren in the air strike in Khan Younis, and that all had evacuated from north Gaza on Israeli army orders only to die where the army told them they could be safe.
“All of them were martyred. They had nothing to do with the (Hamas) resistance,” said Zaeem, standing outside the morgue at Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis where 26 bodies were laid out before they were to be carried by loved ones to burials.
A few kilometres to the north, six Palestinians were killed when a house was bombed from the air in the town of Deir Al-Balah, health authorities said.
A third Israeli air strike on Saturday afternoon killed 15 Palestinians in a house west of Khan Younis, close to a shelter for displaced people, witnesses and medics said.
Israel says Hamas typically conceals fighters and weaponry in residential and other civilian buildings, which Hamas denies.
An Israeli military statement said only that over the past 24 hours its air force had hit dozens of Gaza targets including militants, command centres, rocket launch sites and munitions factories.
EVACUATIONS FROM AL SHIFA HOSPITAL
Much to international alarm, Israel made Al Shifa Hospital a primary focus of its ground advance in northern Gaza.
Its forces took it over after reporting clashes with Hamas fighters outside and are combing the premises and excavating parts of it, saying they have found evidence of a Hamas base underground. Al Shifa staff say Israel has proven no such thing.
Palestinian Health Minister Mai al-Kaila said all except about 125 of around 1,000-1,500 war-wounded or sick patients, as well as 34 newborn babies along with a small number of doctors and nurses, had been forced to leave Al Shifa by Israeli troops.
“The situation at (Al Shifa) is very catastrophic. It is now without fuel, without food, without medicine, without food, without water – this means killing them (patients),” she told a press conference in Ramallah, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
The Israeli army denied the Palestinian accounts. In a statement, it said its forces at Al Shifa had acceded to a request from its director to “expand and assist” in further voluntary evacuations via a “secure route”. Doctors could stay to support patients too weak to be evacuated, it said.
The military said over 6,000 litres of water and over 2,300 kilograms of food had been transferred to the hospital.
Palestinian health officials said evacuees from Al Shifa had been left to fend for themselves on foot along dangerous, bombed-out roads in areas repeatedly under air attack.
“We were forced by the occupation authorities to leave Al Shifa,” Ramez Rudwan, a doctor, said as he and his daughter, also a doctor, arrived in south Gaza on Saturday.
With the war entering its seventh week, there was no sign of a let-up, despite international calls for “humanitarian pauses”.
UN humanitarian agency OCHA said no aid entered Gaza for a third day running on Friday and distributions had come to a virtual halt due to a lack of security guarantees and fuel. It said raw sewage has begun flowing in the streets in some areas as a result of a lack of fuel to run infrastructure.