KHAN YOUNIS, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israel bombed targets in the crowded southern half of the Gaza Strip on Saturday and ordered the evacuation of more neighborhoods targeted for attacks, driving up the death toll even as the United States and others called for more Action was urged to protect civilians in the Gaza Strip a day after the ceasefire collapsed.
At least 200 Palestinians have been killed since fighting resumed on Friday morning following a week-long ceasefire with the ruling militant group Hamas, according to Gaza’s health ministry. Several houses were hit across Gaza on Saturday. Multiple casualties were reported in an attack that leveled a multi-story building on the outskirts of Gaza City.
Separately, the ministry announced that the total death toll in Gaza since the Israel-Hamas war began on October 7 has exceeded 15,200, a significant increase from the previous toll of more than 13,300 on November 20. The ministry makes no distinction between civilians and combatants, but it said 70 percent of the dead were women and children. It was also said that more than 40,000 people had been injured since the war began.
The appeal from the United States, Israel’s closest ally, to do more to protect civilians came after an air and ground offensive devastated large areas of the northern Gaza Strip in the first weeks of the war. About two million Palestinians, almost the entire population of Gaza, currently live in the southern half of the territory.
The Israeli military said Saturday it had attacked more than 400 Hamas targets across the Gaza Strip in the past day, using airstrikes and shelling from Navy tanks and helicopter gunships. It included more than 50 attacks in the city of Khan Younis and surrounding areas in the southern Gaza Strip.
READ MORE: Israeli airstrikes hit Gaza after ceasefire ends, sirens warn of Hamas rockets
At least nine people, including three children, were killed in an attack on a house in the southern city of Deir al-Balah, according to the hospital where the bodies were taken. The hospital also received seven bodies of other people killed in nighttime airstrikes, including two children.
In the northern Gaza Strip, an airstrike destroyed a residential building housing displaced families in the Jabaliya urban refugee camp on the outskirts of Gaza City. Dozens of people were killed or injured in the attack, said residents Hamza Obeid and Amal Radwan.
“There was a loud bang, then the building turned into a pile of rubble,” Obeid said. AP video showed smoke rising from a fire as men, some wearing sandals, struggled over the rubble. Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, an Israeli army spokesman, confirmed that the Israeli military was operating in Jabaliya.
Meanwhile, Palestinian militant groups in Gaza said they had fired rockets into southern Israel. There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries. Lerner said Hamas had fired more than 250 rockets at Israel since the end of the ceasefire.
In the clearest sign yet that a return to negotiations for further ceasefires was unlikely, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered negotiators to return to Israel.
As fighting resumed, the Israeli military released an online map that divided the Gaza Strip into hundreds of numbered plots and urged residents to familiarize themselves with the number of their location ahead of evacuation warnings.
On Saturday, the military listed more than two dozen plot numbers in areas around Gaza City to the north and east of Khan Younis. In addition, leaflets containing evacuation orders were dropped over towns east of Khan Younis.
A resident of Khan Younis said a neighbor received a call from the Israeli army warning that houses in the area were being hit and everyone should leave. “We told them: ‘We have nothing here, why do you want to attack it?’” said resident Hikmat al-Qidra. Al-Qidra said the house was destroyed.
The maps and leaflets caused panic and confusion, particularly in the crowded South. Since they cannot reach northern Gaza or neighboring Egypt, their only means of escape is to move within the 220 square kilometer area.
“There is no place to go,” said Emad Hajar, who fled the north to Khan Younis a month ago with his wife and three children. “They drove us out of the north, and now they’re pushing us to leave the south.”
Amal Radwan, who sought refuge in the Jabaliya refugee camp, said she was unaware of such a map, adding that she and many others were unable to leave the camp because of the relentless bombardment.
Mark Regev, a senior adviser to Netanyahu, said Israel was making “maximum efforts to protect civilians in the Gaza Strip” and that the military had used leaflets, phone calls and radio and television broadcasts to urge Gazans to leave certain areas . “We did not ask the entire population of the south to relocate,” he said.
Regev added that Israel is considering a future security buffer zone that would not allow Gazans to directly access the border fence on foot, adding that Israel does not plan to annex areas from Gaza.
Israel says it has targeted Hamas operatives, blaming the militants for civilian casualties and accusing them of operating in residential neighborhoods. It claims to have killed thousands of militants without providing evidence. According to Israel, 77 of its soldiers were killed in the ground offensive in the north of the Gaza Strip.
Also on Saturday, the Palestinian Red Crescent said it had received the first convoy of aid trucks through the Rafah border crossing since fighting resumed. Wael Abu Omar, a spokesman for the Palestinian Border Crossing Authority, said a convoy of 100 trucks entered the Gaza Strip, including three carrying 150,000 liters (nearly 40,000 gallons) of fuel.
“The current conditions do not allow for meaningful humanitarian assistance and I fear that this will lead to a catastrophe for the civilian population,” said Pascal Hundt, responsible for operations in Gaza at the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Meanwhile, in Dubai on Saturday at the COP28 climate conference, US Vice President Kamala Harris said during a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi that the United States would “under no circumstances” allow the forced relocation of Palestinians from Gaza or the West Bank , the siege of the Gaza Strip or the redrawing of its borders, says a US summary.
READ MORE: The war between Israel and Hamas casts a long shadow over the COP28 climate negotiations
According to the White House, Harris was expected to make proposals with regional leaders to “center Palestinian voices” when planning the next steps for Gaza after the conflict. President Joe Biden’s administration has emphasized the need for an eventual two-state solution with the coexistence of Israel and a Palestinian state.
The October 7 attack by Hamas and other militants in southern Israel killed around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and captured around 240 people.
The renewed hostilities have heightened concerns about 136 hostages who the Israeli military says are still being held by Hamas and other militants, after 105 were released during the ceasefire. A 70-year-old woman held by Hamas was declared dead on Saturday, according to her kibbutz, bringing the total number of known dead hostages to eight.
During the ceasefire, Israel freed 240 Palestinians from its prisons. Most of those released by both sides were women and children.
With the end of the ceasefire there was also new activity along Israel’s northern border. Lebanon’s militant group Hezbollah said its fighters attacked at least five Israeli posts along the border and Israeli forces attacked several areas on the Lebanese side. There were no reports of casualties.
Mroue reported from Beirut and Anna from New York. Associated Press writer Julia Frankel in Jerusalem contributed to this report.
Source : www.pbs.org