Israeli Air Strike Kills 50 at Gaza Refugee Camp

Palestinians search for casualties at the site of Israeli strikes on houses in Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip, October 31, 2023. (Reuters)
Palestinians search for casualties at the site of Israeli strikes on houses in Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip, October 31, 2023. (Reuters)
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Israeli Air Strike Kills 50 at Gaza Refugee Camp

Palestinians search for casualties at the site of Israeli strikes on houses in Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip, October 31, 2023. (Reuters)
Palestinians search for casualties at the site of Israeli strikes on houses in Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip, October 31, 2023. (Reuters)

Israel said its forces fought Hamas gunmen inside the militants' vast tunnel network beneath Gaza as a hospital director said more than 50 Palestinians were killed in an Israeli air strike on a refugee camp in the besieged enclave.

As the battle inside the tiny Hamas-ruled Palestinian territory intensified, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed international calls for a halt to the fighting.

But UN and other aid officials warned that a public health catastrophe was engulfing civilians in Gaza, with hospitals struggling to cope with mounting casualties and food, medicine, drinking water and fuel running short.

The director of Gaza's Indonesian Hospital told Al Jazeera that more than 50 Palestinians were killed and 150 wounded in Israeli air strikes on a densely populated area of the Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza.

There was no immediate comment from the Israeli military.

The tunnels under the cramped enclave are a prime objective for Israel as it expands a four-day-old ground offensive - after three weeks of aerial bombardment - into Gaza from the north to hit Hamas in retaliation for the group's deadly surprise attack into southern Israel on Oct. 7.

Some of the 240 hostages that Israel says were seized by Hamas that day are believed to be held in the tunnel complex, adding a further complication for the Israelis on top of the difficulties of fighting in an urban setting.

"Over the last day, combined IDF (Israel Defense Forces) struck approximately 300 targets, including anti-tank missile and rocket launch posts below shafts, as well as military compounds inside underground tunnels belonging to the Hamas terrorist organization," an Israeli military statement said.

Militants responded with anti-tank missiles and machine gun fire, it said. A number of militants were killed, it said, without specifying a number.

Hamas said in a statement its fighters were engaging in fierce battles with Israeli ground forces, who were taking losses. "The occupation is pushing its soldiers into proud Gaza, which will always be the cemetery of invaders," Hamas said.

Israeli forces also bombed the narrow coastal enclave overnight in air, sea and ground attacks, hitting northwestern areas, witnesses said on Tuesday.

On Monday, Israeli forces targeted Gaza's main north-south road and attacked Gaza City, its northern hub, from two directions.

Gaza health authorities say that 8,525 people, including 3,542 children, have been killed in Israeli attacks since Oct. 7. UN officials say more than 1.4 million of Gaza's civilian population of about 2.3 million have been made homeless.

About 1,400 people, mainly civilians, were killed in the cross-border Hamas assault on Oct. 7, Israel says.

Reuters has been unable to independently verify casualty counts.

Ground fighting spreads to south Gaza

The al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas's armed wing, said militants also clashed early on Tuesday with Israeli forces invading Gaza's south, hitting four Israeli vehicles with missiles.

Militants also fired at two Israeli tanks as well as bulldozers in northwest Gaza, al-Qassam said. In Beit Hanoun, in the northeast, they "liquidated" an Israeli unit which was ambushed as it entered a building.

Reuters was unable to confirm the details of battle reports. Israel's military had no immediate comment on the Hamas accounts.

Air raid sirens sounded in the area of Israel's far southern resort city of Eilat on the Red Sea on Tuesday and the Israeli military said it downed an approaching "aerial target".

Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi militias said they had launched a "large number" of ballistic missiles and drones towards Israel, their third operation targeting Israel, with more to come.

The mounting death toll in Gaza has drawn calls from the United States, Israel's main ally, other countries and the UN for a pause in fighting to allow in more humanitarian aid.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, speaking in Washington, stressed the importance of both security assistance for Israel and humanitarian aid for Palestinians in Gaza.

"Without swift and sustained humanitarian relief, the conflict is much more likely to spread, suffering will grow, and Hamas and its sponsors will benefit by fashioning themselves as the saviors of the very desperation they created," he said.

Israel has sealed off Gaza and refuses to allow in fuel supplies lest, it says, they be used by Hamas to wage war.

Netanyahu said on Monday Israel would not agree to a ceasefire and would pursue its plans to annihilate Hamas.

A World Health Organization official in Geneva said on Tuesday that a "public health catastrophe" was imminent in Gaza.

Children beneath the rubble

Air strikes on Monday night outside the Indonesian Hospital in northern Gaza caused a power cut and doctors said they feared for the lives of 250 injured Palestinians being treated there as fuel runs low.

"Running out of fuel would mean no power and no power would mean the inevitable death of many patients," Dr. Moaeen Al-Masri said.

James Elder, a spokesperson for the UN children's agency in Geneva, warned of the risk of infant deaths due to dehydration. Children in Gaza were getting sick from drinking salty water, he said.

About 940 children are reported missing in Gaza, he said, with some thought to be stuck beneath the rubble of buildings flattened by Israeli air strikes.

Significantly fewer humanitarian aid trucks than needed have reached the besieged enclave, UN officials said. Aid trucks have been trickling into Gaza from Egypt over the past week via Rafah, the main crossing that does not border Israel.



Israel Carries Out New Raids in Gaza as Netanyahu Visits US 

This picture taken in Khan Younis shows smoke billowing during Israeli military operations in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 24, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (AFP)
This picture taken in Khan Younis shows smoke billowing during Israeli military operations in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 24, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (AFP)
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Israel Carries Out New Raids in Gaza as Netanyahu Visits US 

This picture taken in Khan Younis shows smoke billowing during Israeli military operations in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 24, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (AFP)
This picture taken in Khan Younis shows smoke billowing during Israeli military operations in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 24, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (AFP)

Israeli forces carried out new raids in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, hours before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was due to address the US Congress.

The latest Israeli attacks destroyed homes in towns east of Khan Younis in southern Gaza and thousands of people were forced to head west to seek shelter, residents said.

The Palestinian Civil Emergency Service said it had received distress calls from residents trapped in their homes in Bani Suhaila, east of Khan Younis, but were unable to reach the town.

Israel's military, which is trying to eradicate the armed group Hamas after the Oct. 7 attack on Israel, said it had been operating in areas from which fighters had been able to fire rockets into Israel and attack Israeli troops.

Gaza health officials said Israeli military strikes in the past 24 hours had killed at least 55 people, the latest casualties in a war that health authorities in the enclave say has killed more than 39,000 Palestinians.

"Where should we go? Shall we cross into the sea?" said Ghada, who has been displaced with her family six times during the war, said from Hamas City in northwestern Khan Younis.

"We are exhausted, starved, and want the war to end now, now not an hour later. Every day means more families are wiped off the registration book," she told Reuters via a chat app.

Local residents said they had been ordered to head west towards a designated humanitarian area, but that the area was now unsafe.

Israeli forces also carried out airstrikes on several areas of central and northern Gaza Strip, killing and wounding several Palestinians, health officials said.

Residents of Rafah, near the border with Egypt, said Israeli forces had blown up several houses in the west of the city.

PALESTINIANS CRITICISE U.S.

Hamas-led fighters triggered the war on Oct. 7 by storming into southern Israel, killing 1,200 people and taking 250 captives, according to Israeli tallies. Some 120 hostages are still being held though Israel believes one in three are dead.

Some Palestinians who gathered at a hospital in Khan Younis before funerals criticized the United States, Israel's most important international ally, for welcoming Netanyahu.

The Israel leader was due to address Congress later on Wednesday and to meet President Joe Biden at the White House on Thursday. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said he would meet Netanyahu in Florida on Friday.

"The United States is a main partner in what is happening in Gaza. We are being killed because of the United States. We are being slaughtered by American planes, American ships, American tanks, and American troops," said Kazem Abu Taha, a displaced resident from Rafah.

A senior Hamas official, Sami Abu Zuhri, told Reuters: "The Congress invitation to Netanyahu to make a speech gives legitimacy to the crimes of the war of genocide in Gaza. Receiving a war criminal is a shame to all Americans."

Israel has rejected accusations brought by South Africa at the UN's top court that its military operation in Gaza is a state-led genocide campaign against Palestinians. It has reacted angrily to a decision by the International Criminal Court's prosecutor to seek an arrest warrant against Netanyahu.

Netanyahu said this week a deal to release Israelis held captive in Gaza could be near. But Hamas officials said Netanyahu was stalling and that they had not seen any change in the Israeli stance that would allow an agreement to be reached.

Hamas wants a ceasefire agreement to end the war in Gaza. Netanyahu says the war cannot end before Hamas is eradicated.