Israel struck Gaza targets Sunday in its war on Hamas sparked by the October 7 attacks, as international concern deepened over mounting civilian deaths on the third day of fighting after a truce ended. The Hamas-run health ministry said the death toll had surpassed 15,500 people, with thousands more wounded in more than eight weeks of combat and heavy bombardment. The United Nations warned of an increasingly dire humanitarian situation, and U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris called on the parties to end the escalation and protect civilians.
Israeli aircraft and artillery shelled dozens of targets in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis, the coastal enclave’s central commercial hub, as well as its southern and northern areas. The strikes hit “command centers, tunnel shafts, weapons storage facilities, and other military targets,” a statement by the Israeli military said. It added that it destroyed over 1,400 buildings, including hospitals and homes.
The Israeli military has launched an all-out offensive since a temporary pause in the hostilities ended on Friday, chasing militants it says are hiding in a labyrinth of tunnels under Gaza City. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi has been pushing to end hostilities, and the United Nations’ regional emergencies chief warned that humanitarian needs were skyrocketing. “We’re witnessing a catastrophe on top of a disaster,” he said, adding that there were no safe places in the besieged Palestinian territory for civilians.
Families who fled their homes have been scattered across the Gaza Strip, and those who stayed behind were left in a state of uncertainty as Israel’s ferocious bombardment has rolled on. The military has given orders to residents of the northern parts of Gaza to leave for the south, and many have done so, but they face difficult living conditions in the southern part of the besieged enclave.
Air and naval strikes have targeted Gaza’s port, as well as an industrial zone. The United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, said that a water pump and a medical facility were among the targets and that four of its aid distribution centers were out of service. The group says that the conflict has displaced more than a million people.
The Gaza crisis has drawn in international powers, with Russia and Iran, a close ally of Israel, both trying to intervene. Earlier on Sunday, Russia’s foreign minister said his country was ready to mediate a long-term solution to the war as long as “Israel doesn’t impose its agenda” and “disrespects international law.” The Israelis have insisted that they are targeting only Hamas and that most of those killed would still be alive if the terror group had not carried out the October 7 attacks. That line was echoed by an official from the governing party, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud. He insisted that “the entire world must condemn the terrorist attack.” Associated Press writers Samy Magdy and Elena Becatoros in Cairo, Egypt; James Elder in Khan Younis; Tia Goldenberg in Tel Aviv, Israel; and Bassem Mroue in Beirut, Lebanon, contributed to this report.