Israeli air strikes kill 50 in Gaza, Health Ministry says

UN-run school doubling as a shelter hit by shelling overnight

Members of The Palestine Red Crescent Society evacuate casualties from the Maghazi camp in the central Gaza Strip. Reuters
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At least 50 Palestinians were killed and scores injured in Israeli air strikes in Beit Lahia, Khan Younis and Al Maghazi in the Gaza Strip on Thursday, said Ashraf Al Qudra, spokesman for the Gaza Health Ministry.

Israeli forces on Thursday bombed Gaza as the centre of fierce combat against Hamas moves steadily south, where hundreds of thousands of displaced Palestinians are sheltering.

Israeli shelling continued on eastern and central areas of Khan Younis city and east of Rafah in the south of the Palestinian enclave, while the areas of Tel Al Zaatar, Al Sikka, Jabalia Al Balad, and Beit Lahia in the north also endured a barrage of strikes.

The Al Maghazi refugee camp, a UN-run school doubling as a shelter, was hit by shelling overnight.

“They tell you there are green zones and other zones with other colours. All those are rumours, there are no safe zones in Gaza,” a man told AFP on Wednesday.

World Health Organisation (WHO) staff reported that “hungry people again stopped our convoys today in the hope of finding food”. Gazans are facing severe shortages of food, water, fuel and medicine.

An estimated 1.9 million Gazans have been displaced, the UN says.

Israel's relentless bombardment and ground invasions have killed at least 21,000 people, including 8,800 children and 6,300 women, Gaza's Hamas-run health ministry said.

More than 55,000 have been injured and more than 335,000 of the internally displaced are suffering from infectious diseases, it said.

Israeli forces have so far destroyed 65,000 residential units and partially destroyed 290,000 units, the Gaza media office said.

About 115 mosques have been destroyed, while 200 mosques and three churches have suffered heavy damage. Dozens of government buildings and 92 schools and universities were reduced to rubble.

Israeli army spokesman Daniel Hagari said on Wednesday that strikes on a central refugee camp in Gaza had entered a third day and an additional brigade had been sent to the southern city of Khan Yunis, the recent focus of heavy urban combat.

He suggested a possible “expansion of fighting in the north” along the Lebanese border, where repeated exchanges of fire between Israeli troops and Hezbollah militants have occurred since the start of the war.

Chaos in Khan Younis as Israeli air strikes hit town centre

Chaos in Khan Younis as Israeli air strikes hit town centre

After a visit to the border, army chief Herzi Halevi said the military had approved plans for "a variety of contingencies" adding: "We need to be prepared to strike if required.”

The continued air strikes and the expansion of operations in the south came as the WHO said on Wednesday that Gaza's population was in “grave peril”.

The government media office said 311 medical personnel have been killed, as have 40 civil defence officers and more than 100 journalists.

About 7,000 people are still missing, the office added, of which 70 per cent are women or children,

Regional escalation

On Thursday, a drone crashed near a village in the Israel-annexed Golan Heights, the Israeli army said, with an Iraqi faction close to Hamas claiming responsibility for an attack in the area.

The war has raised fears of a broader regional conflict, with recent attacks on shipping by Houthi rebels in Yemen acting in solidarity with Hamas.

Israel wants Hezbollah – which says it is acting in support of Hamas – to withdraw further from the border and has threatened to achieve that goal by overwhelming force, if necessary.

Updated: December 29, 2023, 4:04 AM