Heavy fighting in southern Gaza as Israeli strikes kill at least 12 civilians

Resident of Al Maghazi camp recovers bodies of 11 relatives after forces withdraw from area

Smoke rises from Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip on Friday. AP Photo
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At least 12 people were killed in Israeli air strikes on homes in northern and southern Gaza on Friday as Israeli troops and Palestinian fighters engaged in fierce fighting in Khan Younis.

Seven people were killed in an air strike on a home near Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza city, while five people died when the home of the Kathemi family was hit in the southern city of Khan Younis, according to medical sources in both areas.

Clashes in the Khan Younis between Palestinian fighters and Israeli forces began after midnight and continued into Friday, accompanied by intense Israeli artillery fire in the vicinity of Nasser Medical Centre, the main functioning hospital in southern Gaza.

Israeli tanks were advancing towards Al Namsawi Cemetery, near the hospital, according to media reports and witnesses.

The Palestinian Red Crescent Society said Israeli shelling near its Al Amal Hospital in Khan Younis left a “scattering of shrapnel around the society's ambulance centre”.

The latest deaths add to the more than 24,600 people killed since the war in Gaza began on October 7, according to the latest tally from Palestinian territory's health ministry.

Most of the recent deaths have been in central and northern Gaza, after the Israeli military declared in early January that it had dismantled the command structure of the enclave's ruling Hamas militant group in the north.

Residents of Al Maghazi camp in central Gaza, which suffered several deadly air strikes, said they were able to return to assess the impact after Israeli troops withdrew.

Antony Blinken says scenes from Gaza are 'gut-wrenching'

Antony Blinken says scenes from Gaza are 'gut-wrenching'

Ahmed Abu Yosif said he discovered at least 17 of his relatives had been killed when he checked the building where they had been staying.

“I pulled out 11 bodies of my relatives from under the rubble, and there are still around 16 others that we are trying to retrieve,” he told The National.

His relatives had sought safety in Maghazi after fleeing the Jabalia camp in northern Gaza. Israeli warplanes struck the four-storey building they were living in 15 days ago, and rescue teams could not reach the area in time to look for survivors, Mr Abu Yosif said.

“I approached ambulances and emergency services in Al Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir Al Balah, asking them to send an ambulance to evacuate the bodies from the area.

“But they said they can't because they don't have enough fuel, so I was forced to bring the 11 bodies using a donkey cart, which is the only available means of transport,” he said.

“I will go back to bring the other 16 bodies.

The war was triggered when Hamas militants launched raids into southern Israel on October 7 and killed more than 1,200 people, according to an updated Israeli toll. They also took about 240 people hostage, of whom about 130 are still being held in Gaza.

Israel's military response has devastated large areas of Gaza and displaced most of its 2.3 million population, the majority of whom have moved south to what the army designated as safe areas.

On Wednesday, the military blew up buildings housing the undergraduate and postgraduate sections of Al Isra University in Gaza city after occupying it for 70 days. Photos of the demolition were carried by Israeli media.

The university administration said Israeli troops converted the campus into a military base and a position for snipers to target people in surrounding areas, as well as a detention centre to interrogate Palestinians.

“The aggression was not limited to the main buildings only, but also targeted the National Museum, which Al Isra University has always proudly considered as the first licensed national museum by the Ministry of Antiquities nationwide. It housed over 3,000 rare archaeological artefacts,” the university said in a statement issued on Thursday.

Updated: January 19, 2024, 12:43 PM