Israeli air strikes kill dozens in southern Gaza as Palestinians seek refuge

Civilians were told to move south as Israel prepares for ground invasion in northern Gaza Strip

Many Palestinians have found that despite fleeing the northern Gaza Strip for fear of a ground offensive, the south is no safer, suffering a wave of Israeli bombardment. AP
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Dozens of Palestinians were killed on Tuesday in Israeli air strikes that bombed areas of southern Gaza, pushing people to flee before an expected ground invasion.

At least 80 people were killed in attacks on Rafah and three homes were bombed in the city in Khan Younis, the Hamas-run government media office reported.

Twenty-eight Palestinians were killed on Tuesday morning, all of them in one of the houses at the time. The five-storey home belonging to the Zourb family was destroyed only hours before a nearby residence was razed by another strike.

“Sondos, Islam, Aboud, answer me. Where are you? I brought you the clothes you asked me to bring,” a relative called to his missing brothers and sisters.

The man, whose name is unknown, left his home to bring some essential needs to his family members and rushed back immediately after hearing the sounds of bombing.

He found that his home had been hit.

Many of the victims had fled to the south from Gaza city, after being warned by the Israeli military to leave the north of the enclave, ahead of an expected Israeli ground invasion.

Israel has sealed off and continuously bombed the Gaza Strip since Hamas attacked southern Israel on October 7. The militants killed more than 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and left about 200 captive in Gaza.

On Tuesday morning, civil defence teams and family members called to people trapped under the rubble in an attempt to find survivors.

More than 1,000 people across Gaza are thought to be buried under the rubble, alive or dead, according to health authorities.

It highlights the struggles that aid groups are enduring when attempting to save lives, while being cut off from electricity, running out of fuel and exposed to continuous bombardment.

Throughout Tuesday, aid agencies and workers warned the sealed-off territory was near to complete collapse, with hospitals on the brink of losing power threatening the lives of thousands of patients.

Hundreds of thousands were searching for bread, water and escaping to safety from Israel's air strikes.

"The situation in the south is horrific," Sarah Davis, the International Committee of the Red Cross spokeswoman in Jerusalem, told The National.

"Our teams have been reporting seeing families sleeping on the roads, in their cars in multiple areas of Gaza. But there are only so many places they can go.

"We already know that food and water and medical supplies, these are in danger of running out. There is a limited supply of water, medical equipment, oxygen masks."

The situation in the European Hospital in Khan Younis is "extremely dangerous", hospital director Dr Youssef Al Aqqad told The National.

"Our hospital has been targeted and damage has been sustained in some parts of the hospital," he said. "We are also running very low on fuel. If we're out, then our generators stop working and we go out of service. We will be watching people die."

He also said many people had been struggling to identify their dead next of kin.

"We're receiving bodies in parts. Family members are unable to identify them."

To avoid a public health hazard, Dr Al Aqqad said bodies were being buried as soon as they were received.

"They are being buried in mass graves."

Still, doctors are determined to keep working "until their last breath", he added.

The UN's World Food Programme, WFP, said only four to five days worth of stock is left in the shops in besieged Gaza.

WFP said stocks were becoming low in warehouses inside the Palestinian city.

"The situation in Gaza is getting worse by the minute: the humanitarian situation but also of course the food security situation," WFP's Middle East spokeswoman Abeer Etefa told reporters at the UN in Geneva via video-link from Cairo.

"The current stocks of essential food commodities are sufficient for only two weeks and that's at the wholesalers' level," she said, with the warehouses in Gaza city in the north of the territory and shops having difficulties replenishing supplies.

"Inside the shops, the stocks are getting close to less than a few days, maybe four or five days of food stocks left," she added.

Updated: October 17, 2023, 2:59 PM