Tue, 12/05/2023 – 15:02
Israeli forces launched a devastating assault on the city of Khan Younis in southern Gaza on Tuesday, in one of the most violent days since the military launched a ground offensive on the besieged enclave in October.
Israeli air strikes hit a school sheltering displaced Palestinians in Khan Younis overnight, killing at least 30 people.
Israeli tanks entered the area for the first time, taking up positions in the town of Bani Suhaila and in Hamad City, a Qatar-funded housing development.
At least 43 dead Palestinian bodies were brought to Nasser Hospital – Khan Younis’s main medical facility – on Tuesday morning, according to Palestinian health ministry spokesperson Ashraf al-Qudra.
Palestinians wounded in the school strike were transported to the hospital in ambulances, cars, flatbed trucks and donkey carts.
“Hospitals in the southern Gaza Strip are totally collapsing, they cannot deal with the quantity and quality of injuries that arrive at the hospitals,” Qudra said.
A senior Israeli military official said it was engaged in the heaviest day of fighting since the start of its ground invasion.
“We are in the most intense day since the beginning of the ground operation,” Yaron Finkelman, head of the Israeli army’s southern command, said on Tuesday.
“We are in the heart of Jabalia, in the heart of Shujaiyya, and now also in the heart of Khan Younis,” he said, referring also to areas in northern and central Gaza that Israeli troops had taken over.
At least five Israeli soldiers were killed during clashes with Palestinian fighters over a period of 24 hours, bringing the total death toll of troops since the ground operation was launched to at least 80.
So-called safe zones are ‘dangerous false narrative’
Elsewhere, dozens of Palestinians were killed after Israeli bombs targeted the multi-storey home of the Abu Misbah family in central Gaza’s Deir al-Balah. An Israeli air strike also killed at least 10 people in Nuseirat refugee camp.
A Lebanese soldier was also killed and three others wounded following Israeli shelling near a village in southern Lebanon along the border with Israel, the Lebanese army said.
In the Israeli cities of Ashkelon and Tel Aviv, three people were lightly wounded by shrapnel from rockets fired from the Gaza Strip.
A United Nations agency said Israeli attempts to create so-called “safe zones” for civilians in southern Gaza were a “dangerous false narrative”.
“The so-called safe zones… are not scientific, they are not rational, they are not possible, and I think the authorities are aware of this,” James Elder, spokesman for the UN children’s agency Unicef, told reporters via video-link on Tuesday.
In an interview with the BBC, Elder, who is currently in Gaza, said the areas Israel had asked Palestinians to evacuate to are “patches of barren land” that have “no water, no facilities, no shelter from the cold, no sanitation”.
“If you are going to forcibly evacuate people, you cannot send hundreds of thousands of people to places where there is no water and no toilets. I genuinely mean no toilets. Every corner I had turned to, there were another 5,000 people who would appear overnight. They don’t have a single toilet, they don’t have a drop of water,” he said.
Jan Egeland, the secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, meanwhile said that civilian deaths in Gaza were “a stain on Israel and its allies”.
‘The pulverising of Gaza now ranks amongst the worst assaults on any civilian population in our time and age’
– Jan Egeland, Norwegian Refugee Council
“The pulverising of Gaza now ranks amongst the worst assaults on any civilian population in our time and age. Each day we see more dead children and new depths of suffering for the innocent people enduring this hell,” Egeland said in a statement.
“Countries supporting Israel with arms must understand that these civilian deaths will be a permanent stain on their reputation.
“They must demand an immediate ceasefire in Israel and Gaza.”
The death toll of Palestinians killed in Gaza since Israel bombardment of the enclave began nine weeks ago exceeded 15,900 on Tuesday, the majority of whom are women and children. Thousands more are missing under the rubble.
The Israeli assault came following Hamas’ attack on southern Israeli communities on 7 October, which killed around 1,200 Israelis, most of whom were civilians.