Dozens killed in Gaza's Jabalia camp as Israel strikes health centres

Aid entered through the Kerem Shalom crossing for the first time since the war broke out

Palestinians inspect the damage in a maternity ward at Nasser hospital in Khan Younis on Sunday. AFP
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At least 90 people were killed in an Israeli air attack on Jabalia refugee camp on Sunday.

The missiles struck a residential block belonging to Al Barh and Alwan families in the town of Jabalia, situated in northern Gaza, Palestinian news agency Wafa said.

Another missile struck a house belonging to the Al Shehab family, killing 24 people, Hamas Aqsa radio said.

Women and children were among the dead while 100 people were injured. Search operations continued as more bodies were believed to be under the rubble.

A representative for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad was among the dead, an official from the militant group told Reuters.

“We believe the number of dead people under the rubble is huge but there is no way to remove the rubble and recover them because of the intensity of Israeli fire,” said the official.

The deadly air strikes came as fighting showed no sign of abating in Gaza, despite reports of a possible truce between Israel and Hamas.

Israel said five of its soldiers were killed on Monday.

Hospitals across Gaza are on the front line of the fighting.

The Israeli military stormed Al Ouda hospital in Jabalia and detained its director and medical staff, Gaza's Health Ministry said.

Plumes of smoke were seen rising from Al Shifa medical complex in Gaza city, the biggest hospital in the enclave.

The World Health Organisation visited the hospital and said "tens of thousands" of displaced people were using Al Shifa hospital for shelter, describing severe shortages of safe water and food.

In Khan Younis, an Israel artillery shell hit a maternity ward at Nasser hospital, killing at least one Palestinian and injuring five others. The shell did not explode.

“The occupation targeted Nasser Medical Complex with an artillery shell,” said Ashraf Al Qudra, spokesman for the Health Ministry in Gaza. “If it exploded, it would [have] caused a massacre.”

Israel's war on the Palestinian enclave has killed more than 19,000 people in 73 days, amid daily shelling and fighting between Israeli soldiers and Hamas fighters.

Aid enters through Kerem Shalom

The Kerem Shalom crossing between Israel and Gaza opened to aid lorries on Sunday – the first time since the outbreak of war – officials said, a move intended to double the amount of food and medicine reaching the enclave.

The crossing had been closed after the October 7 attack by Hamas and aid was being delivered solely through Rafah crossing with Egypt, which Israel said could only accommodate the entry of 100 lorries a day.

As Israel's military campaign in Gaza has gathered pace, the humanitarian situation in the besieged enclave has worsened dramatically, with the UN and other world bodies warning of severe shortages of food, clean water and medicines.

Kerem Shalom, on the border of Egypt, Israel and Gaza, is one of the main transit points for goods in and out of the Palestinian enclave, allowing much faster transit times than the Rafah passenger crossing a few kilometres away. Israel approved the entry of aid last week.

“Starting today [December 17], UN aid trucks will undergo security checks and be transferred directly to Gaza via Kerem Shalom, to abide by our agreement with the US,” said Cogat, the branch of the Israeli military that co-ordinates humanitarian aid with the Palestinian territories.

Following inspections, at least 79 aid lorries had entered Gaza through the Kerem Shalom by Monday afternoon, according to the Israeli army and photographs from the Palestinian side.

“Israel is committed to continue working with our partners in order to facilitate large amounts of aid to the people of Gaza,” said Cogat head Col Moshe Tetro.

“Since the beginning of the war, we have increased our capacity for security checks at Nitzana crossing and have opened Kerem Shalom for additional checks as well.”

Gazans 'starving'

Despite the increase in aid, the situation in Gaza remains dire.

US-based Human Rights Watch has accused Israel of deliberately blocking water, food and fuel deliveries.

"The Israeli government is using starvation of civilians as a method of warfare in the occupied Gaza Strip," it said in a report. "World leaders should be speaking out against this abhorrent war crime."

There was no immediate response to the HRW report from Israel, which has denied making civilians targets and says it is trying to arrange aid to civilians while choking off supplies to thousands of Hamas fighters operating from tunnels.

Last week, the UN's World Food Programme warned that about half of Gaza's 2.3 million people were "starving", with no idea where there next meal will come from.

The desperate conditions have led some Gazans to raid aid lorries carrying food, the UN said.

“I saw it with my eyes that people in Rafah have started to decide to help themselves directly from the truck out of total despair and eat what they have taken out of the truck on the spot ... This has nothing to do with aid diversion,” said Philippe Lazzarini, the commissioner general of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, after visiting Gaza last week.

Updated: December 18, 2023, 12:03 PM