Israel pummels central Gaza, dozens more Palestinians killed

By Nidal al-Mughrabi, Bassam Masoud and Dan Williams

CAIRO/GAZA/JERUSALEM (Reuters) -Israeli forces pounded central Gaza by land, sea and air on Wednesday and Palestinian authorities reported dozens more deaths including 20 in one attack after Israel’s military chief said the war on Hamas would grind on for months.

Reflecting Israeli resolve to wipe out Hamas despite growing international calls for a ceasefire amid a humanitarian crisis, Israel’s Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi said fighting would last “many months” and there were no “magic solutions” or “shortcuts”.

A Gaza health ministry statement said an Israeli air strike killed 20 Palestinians on Wednesday near the Al-Amal Hospital in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip. There was no immediate comment from the Israeli military.

A telecommunications outage in much of the enclave hindered efforts to reach Palestinian casualties overnight but was gradually coming back online at mid-morning.

In central Gaza’s Al-Maghazi district, five Palestinians were killed in one air strike, medics said, while to the north in Gaza City health officials said the bodies of seven Palestinians killed overnight arrived at Al Shifa Hospital.

Residents also reported heavy fighting east and north of the Al-Bureij district and in the nearby village of Juhr Ad-Deek, where they said Israeli tanks are stationed.

Israel’s military on Wednesday reported three more soldiers killed in action in Gaza, bringing total military losses in the enclave since ground operations began on Oct. 20 to 166.

The Hamas armed wing said its fighters attacked four Israeli bulldozers and a tank in the northern part of Khan Younis, the scene of heavy fighting for several days.

Israeli intensified its raids this week, particularly in a central area just south of the waterway that bisects the narrow coastal strip. The Israeli army told civilians to leave the area, though many said there was no safe place left to go.

The World Health Organization released footage, taken mostly on Monday and Tuesday at several Gaza hospitals, with WHO emergency medical team coordinator Sean Casey saying Gaza’s health capacity was 20 percent of what it was 80 days ago.


“There’s blood everywhere in these hospitals at the moment,” said Casey, adding that nowhere in Gaza was safe.

“We’re seeing almost only trauma cases come through the door and at a scale that’s quite difficult to believe. It’s a bloodbath as we said before, it’s carnage.”

Since Hamas killed 1,200 people and captured 240 hostages in a cross-border rampage on Oct. 7, the deadliest day in Israel’s history, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has responded with an assault that has laid much of Hamas-ruled Gaza to waste.

The Gaza health ministry said Israeli forces had killed 195 Palestinians and wounded 325 in the past 24 hours, bringing the recorded toll to 21,110 killed and 55,243 wounded in Israeli attacks in the coastal Palestinian territory since Oct. 7.

Nearly all the enclave’s 2.3 million people have been driven from their homes, many several times.

The Israeli military said it was continuing to strike what it called terror targets in Gaza, at one point using its navy to hit suspects deemed to pose a threat to ground troops.

In the Shejaia district of Gaza City an Israeli attack on militant fighters on foot caused secondary explosions, indicating the area was rigged with explosives to attack soldiers, a military statement said.

Gaza authorities buried 80 unidentified Palestinians on Tuesday whose bodies had been handed over by Israel through the Kerem Shalom border crossing, the health ministry said.

According to the Islamic Waqf, or religious affairs ministry, the bodies were collected from Gaza’s north.

Israel says it is doing what it can to protect civilians, and blames Hamas for putting them in harm’s way by operating among them, which Hamas denies. But even Israel’s closest ally the U.S. has said it should do more to reduce civilian deaths from what President Joe Biden has called “indiscriminate bombing”.

In the Israeli-occupied West Bank, six youths were killed in an Israeli raid into the city of Tulkarm, the Palestinian health ministry said. An Israeli military statement on the incident said Israeli forces on a counter-terrorism operation came under attack by militants who threw explosive devices at them. The attackers were struck by an Israeli air force aircraft, it said.

Residents said the youths were neither fighters nor militants and were far away from areas where clashes had erupted.


In Washington, White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer on Tuesday discussed planning for what happens when the war ends, including governance and security in Gaza.

The two also touched on efforts to bring home the remaining hostages and a transition to a different phase of the war to focus on Hamas leaders, a U.S. official said.

The United States has pressed Israel in recent weeks to scale down its war to a more targeted operation. But Washington is still seen in the region as a supporter of Israel and U.S. forces have been attacked by Iran-backed militants in the Middle East.

In an interview with Egyptian TV, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Israel intended to stay in Gaza after the war “but the whole world does not agree with it”.

He said the U.S. could “order” Israel to agree that Gaza become part of a future Palestinian state.

(Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Cairo, Bassam Masoud in Gaza, and Emily Rose, Dan Williams and Maayan Lubell in Jerusalem; Writing by William Maclean; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Mark Heinrich)