More than 180 killed as Israel resumes Gaza assault after truce lapses

Israeli forces prohibit entry of aid trucks via Rafah crossing, the Palestinian Red Crescent says.

Palestinians check the damage of a house destroyed in an Israeli strike on Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on December 1, 2023, after the expiration of the seven-day truce [MAHMUD HAMS / AFP]
Palestinians check the damage of a house destroyed in an Israeli strike on Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on December 1, 2023, after the expiration of the seven-day truce [Mahmud Hams/AFP]

More than 180 people have been killed and hundreds of others wounded as Israeli forces resumed their bombardment of the Gaza Strip, according to Palestinian officials, after a week-long truce expired.

Eastern areas of Khan Younis in southern Gaza came under intense bombardment as the deadline lapsed shortly after dawn on Friday, with columns of smoke rising into the sky, the Reuters news agency reported. Residents took to the road with belongings heaped in carts, searching for shelter further west.

Sirens blared across southern Israel as militants fired rockets from the coastal enclave into towns. Hamas said it had targeted Tel Aviv, but there were no reports of casualties or damage there.

Gaza health officials said Israeli air strikes had killed 184 people, wounded at least 589 others and hit more than 20 houses.

The Israeli military dropped leaflets over Gaza City and southern parts of the enclave on Friday, urging civilians to flee to avoid the fighting, but rights groups have repeatedly warned there are no safe places in Gaza.

“Civilians are being ordered to move south, but nowhere in Gaza is safe due to the indiscriminate bombing and continued fighting,” said the NGO Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres, or MSF) on X, calling on the Israeli army to rescind the order.

The UN said the fighting would worsen an extreme humanitarian emergency. “Hell on Earth has returned to Gaza,” Jens Laerke, spokesperson for the UN humanitarian office in Geneva, said.

The Palestinian Red Crescent (PRCS) says Israeli forces informed “all organisations and entities” operating at the crossing that the entry of trucks is “prohibited, starting from today” and until further notice.

“This decision exacerbates the suffering of citizens and increases the challenges facing humanitarian and relief organisations in alleviating the hardships of citizens and displaced persons due to the ongoing aggression,” the PRCS said in a post on X.

‘Urgent rescue plan’

Speaking to reporters after Israel resumed its bombardment, Gaza’s government media office called on Arab and Muslim states to urgently establish field hospitals in the besieged enclave to save “tens of thousands of injured people”.

The office’s spokesperson, Salama Marouf, said a “large number of aid trucks” is also urgently needed, including at least one million litres (more than 264,000 gallons) of fuel per day.

Marouf called on countries, especially members of the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, to come up with an “urgent rescue plan” and to find “quick humanitarian solutions that address the fate of more than 250,000 families who have lost their homes”.

Each of the warring sides blamed the other for causing the collapse of the truce by rejecting terms to extend the daily release of hostages held by armed groups in exchange for Palestinian detainees.

The pause, which began on November 24, had been extended twice, and Israel had said it could continue as long as Hamas released 10 hostages each day. But after seven days during which women, children and foreign hostages were freed, mediators failed at the final hour to find a formula to release more, including Israeli soldiers and civilian men.

Qatar, which has played a central role in mediation efforts along with the United States and Egypt, said negotiations were still going on with Israelis and Palestinians to restore the truce, but that Israel’s renewed bombardment of Gaza had complicated its efforts.

In a meeting with the United Kingdom’s newly appointed Foreign Secretary David Cameron on the sidelines of COP28 in Dubai, Qatar’s Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani, said his country was committed to continuing efforts to de-escalate.

According to a a statement released by Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the two reviewed the latest developments in Gaza and the occupied Palestinian territories as well as ways to implement a lasting ceasefire.

The White House also said it was pushing to restore the truce, with press secretary John Kirby telling reporters on Friday evening that the US wants to see more captives released and more humanitarian aid get into the Strip.

“There has been some disappointment, the fact that the US efforts to extend the ceasefire were not successful, but the other reaction has been to simply repeat the Israeli line that the end of the ceasefire came about because of actions by Hamas,” Al Jazeera’s Mike Hannah reported from Washington, DC.

“Blinken says Israel is acting immediately to ensure the safety of civilians in the conflict zones, giving them areas in which they will take safe shelter. This ignores the fact that Israel has, in turn, ignored the humanitarian notification system,” he added.

Egypt says it was also working to reinstate the truce in Gaza as soon as possible, according to a statement by Egypt’s State Information Service.

More than 15,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since October 7, including more than 6,150 children. In Israel, the official death toll stands at about 1,200.

Source: Al Jazeera