More than 20 killed and dozens wounded in central Gaza as famine threat worsens

Refugee camps hit by Israeli strikes on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning

Palestinians gather near a vehicle destroyed by an Israeli attack in Deir Al Balah. Bloomberg
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Israeli attacks on central Gaza killed 21 people and wounded dozens overnight on Tuesday, as the army increased its offensive on towns, cities and refugee camps.

Eleven people died and dozens were wounded as several homes were targeted in Al Maghazi refugee camp, the Wafa news agency reported. Medical teams recovered two bodies after artillery shells struck a home.

Two more were killed in a strike at the entrance to Al Bureij refugee camp.

The Palestine Red Crescent later recovered six bodies and took eight injured Palestinians to hospital after shelling on Deir Al Balah, posting video footage of the injured being taken for medical treatment.

Sixty people have been killed across central Gaza in the past 24 hours, according to Palestinian reports.

Deir Al Balah, south of Gaza city, is home to Al Aqsa Martyrs Hospital – the only functioning medical complex in the area that is now serving about a million people, health authorities say.

The hospital cannot cope with more wounded because of a shortage of medical supplies, it said on Tuesday.

Another seven were injured on Wednesday morning in strikes on Gaza city's Al Zeitoun district, and aircraft opened fire on Nuseirat refugee camp. A toll of casualties from that attack was not available.

At least 36,550 Palestinians have been killed and more than 83,000 injured since the war began in October, prompted by the Hamas attack on southern Israel which killed about 1,200 people.

At least 15,000 children are among Gaza's dead, Palestinian authorities estimate.

Another 500 Palestinians have been killed and more than 9,040 arrested in the occupied West Bank.

The Gaza death toll is to likely to be underreported as thousands are missing, presumed dead under the rubble of bombed buildings.

Attacks on central Gaza have been stepped up following weeks of heavy assaults on the southern city of Rafah, from where more than a million people fled as tanks pushed through the last refuge for most of Gaza's displaced Palestinians.

Most civilians fleeing Rafah sought shelter in Khan Younis, Al Mawasi – a supposed “safe zone” targeted a number of times by the Israeli army – and parts of central Gaza now under renewed attack.

Shelling was reported on residential neighbourhoods in Rafah on Wednesday morning and also in nearby Khan Younis.

Death from hunger

The rising death toll from Israeli attacks comes as UN agencies warned on Wednesday of worsening hunger in Gaza, with more than a million people – half of the population – expected to face "death and starvation" by the middle of next month.

A report from the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and World Food Programme (WFP) identified Gaza as one of 18 hunger "hotspots" across the globe. They said Palestine, Mali, Sudan and South Sudan were the most critical, requiring urgent aid.

“Once a famine is declared, it is too late – many people will have already starved to death,” said WFP executive director Cindy McCain.

“We have proven solutions to stop these crises in their tracks but we need the resources and the political will to implement them at scale before more lives are lost."

Numerous aid groups have been warning of famine for months, with concern heightened in recent weeks following the closure of the Rafah border crossing for aid deliveries.

The UN warning comes a day after the Famine Early Warnings System Network said famine in northern Gaza is "possible, if not likely".

It is the first technical assessment to ascertain that famine could be a reality in the devastated enclave, where dozens, including children, are already reported to have starved to death.

Ms McCain said last month that a "full-blown famine" was under way in northern Gaza, although the WFP said later its executive director "was expressing a personal opinion".

Updated: June 05, 2024, 12:09 PM