Warplanes strike Gaza refugee camp as Israel rejects US push for a pause in fighting
KHAN YOUNIS: Israeli warplanes struck a refugee camp in the Gaza Strip early Sunday, killing at least 33 people and wounding dozens, health officials said. The strike came as Israel said it would press on with its offensive to crush the territory’s Hamas rulers, despite US appeals for a pause to get aid to desperate civilians.
The soaring death toll in Gaza has sparked growing international anger, with tens of thousands from Washington to Berlin taking to the streets Saturday to demand an immediate cease-fire.
The health ministry in Gaza Strip urged the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) or Egypt on Sunday to ensure the safe exit of the wounded from the enclave.
“We call on the ICRC to provide a safe passage for the wounded, accompany them and ensure their safe arrival to the Rafah land crossing until they are discharged to hospitals in Egypt,” the spokesman for the ministry of health, Ashraf Al-Qudra, said.
He said another option could be for Egypt to let Egyptian ambulances enter the Gaza Strip and transport the wounded from the enclave’s hospitals to Egyptian hospitals “to ensure their safe exit”.
Meanwhile, evacuations of injured Gazans and foreign passport holders through the Rafah crossing to Egypt have been suspended since Saturday, two Egyptian security sources and one medical source told Reuters.
One of the security sources and the medical source said the evacuations were suspended after an Israeli strike on Friday on an ambulance in Gaza being used to transport injured people.
The Rafah crossing to Egypt’s Sinai peninsula is the only exit point from Gaza not controlled by Israel. Aid trucks were still able to travel into the territory, two of the sources said.
Israel has rejected the idea of halting its offensive, even for brief humanitarian pauses proposed by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken during his current tour of the region. Instead, it said that the besieged enclave’s Hamas rulers were “encountering the full force” of its troops.
“Anyone in Gaza City is risking their life,” Israel’s Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant said.
Large columns of smoke rose as Israel’s military said it had encircled Gaza City, the initial target of its offensive against Hamas. Gaza’s Health Ministry has said more than 9,400 Palestinians have been killed in the territory in nearly a month of war, and that number is likely to rise as the assault continues.
Early Sunday, airstrikes hit the Maghazi refugee camp in central Gaza, killing at least 33 people and wounding 42, said Ashraf Al-Qidra, the spokesman for the Health Ministry.
He said first responders, aided by residents, were still searching the rubble for dead or possible survivors.
The camp, a built-up residential area, is located in the evacuation zone where Israel’s military had urged Palestinian civilians in Gaza to seek refuge as it focuses its military offensive in the northern areas.
Despite such appeals, Israel has continued its bombardment across Gaza, saying it is targeting Hamas fighters and assets everywhere. It has accused Hamas of using civilians as human shields.
Critics say Israel’s strikes are often disproportionate, considering the large number of women and children killed in such attacks.
Egyptian officials said they and Qatar were proposing humanitarian pauses for six to 12 hours daily to allow aid in and casualties to be evacuated. They were also asking for Israel to release a number of women and elderly prisoners in exchange for hostages, suggestions Israel seemed unlikely to accept. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the press on the discussions.
Israel has repeatedly demanded that northern Gaza’s 1.1 million residents flee south, and on Saturday it offered a three-hour window for residents to do so. An Associated Press journalist on the road, however, saw nobody coming. The head of the government media office in Gaza, Salama Maarouf, said no one went south because the Israeli military had damaged the road.
Israel asserted that Hamas “exploited” the window to move south and attack its forces. There was no immediate Hamas comment on that claim, which was impossible to verify.
Some Palestinians said they didn’t flee because they feared Israeli bombardment.
“We don’t trust them,” said Mohamed Abed, who sheltered with his wife and children on the grounds of Al-Shifa hospital, one of thousands of Palestinians seeking safety at medical centers in the north.
Swaths of residential neighborhoods in northern Gaza have been leveled in airstrikes. UN monitors say more than half of northern Gaza’s remaining residents, estimated at around 300,000, are sheltering in UN-run facilities. But deadly Israeli strikes have also repeatedly hit and damaged those shelters. The UN agency for Palestinian refugees has said it has lost contact with many in the north.
An Israeli airstrike overnight struck a water well in Tal Al-Zatar in northern Gaza, cutting off water for tens of thousands of people in the area, the Hamas-run municipality in the town of Beit Lahia said in a statement early Sunday.
At least 1,115 Palestinian dual nationals and wounded have exited Gaza into Egypt, but on Saturday authorities in Gaza didn’t allow foreign passport holders to leave because Israel was preventing the evacuation of Palestinian patients for treatment in Egypt, said Wael Abu Omar, a spokesman for the Palestinian Crossings Authority.
The UN said about 1.5 million people in Gaza, or 70 percent of the population, have fled their homes. Food, water and the fuel needed for generators that power hospitals and other facilities is running out.
Thousands of Israelis protested outside Netanyahu’s official residence in Jerusalem, urging him to resign and calling for the return of roughly 240 hostages held by Hamas. Netanyahu has refused to take responsibility for the Oct. 7 attack in southern Israel that killed more than 1,400 people.
“I find it difficult to understand why trucks with humanitarian aid are going to monsters,” said Ella Ben Ami, whose parents were abducted. She called for aid to be halted until the hostages are released.
Air raid sirens sounded Saturday evening in southern Israel as Hamas launched rockets into Ashkelon. Rocket fire has continued in the area throughout the conflict, forcing tens of thousands of people to evacuate their homes.
Among the Palestinians killed in Gaza are more than 3,900 Palestinian children, the Gaza Health Ministry said, without providing a breakdown of civilians and fighters.
The Israeli military said four more soldiers have died during the Gaza ground operation, bringing the confirmed death toll to 28.