‘Massacre’ as Israel steps up Gaza bombardment for Christmas

The attack is one of the deadliest of the nearly three-month-long war.

People flee following Israeli air strikes
People flee following Israeli air attacks in the Maghazi refugee camp in central Gaza [File: Yasser Qudih/AFP]

More than 100 people have been killed in Israeli air raids overnight in central Gaza.

At least 70 people were killed in strikes in central Gaza’s Maghazi refugee camp, the Palestinian Ministry of Health said late on Sunday. Attacks on the Bureij refugee camp saw the number of casualties rise to more than 100.

Health Ministry spokesperson Ashraf al-Qudra said the death toll at the Maghazi refugee camp was likely to rise.

“What is happening at the Maghazi camp is a massacre that is being committed on a crowded residential square,” he said.

Bodies have been piling up at Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital.

Dozens more are reported to be injured, and several houses have been destroyed in the attack. Families have been digging through the rubble in an attempt to find survivors.

The bombs fell on homes and buildings, reported Hani Mahmoud from Rafah in southern Gaza, destroying neighbourhoods and infrastructure, such as roads leading in and out of the refugee camps.

With the Bureij refugee camp also pounded overnight, some 100 people have been killed in the last 12 hours, he added. The vast majority of the victims are women and children.

“We were all targeted,” said Ahmad Turokmani, who lost several family members, including his daughter and grandson. “There is no safe place in Gaza anyway.”

Al Jazeera’s Tareq Abu Azzoum, reporting from Rafah in southern Gaza, said the Maghazi refugee camp is one of the most densely populated areas in the middle of the Gaza Strip.

He said it was one of the places the Israeli military had previously told the Palestinians in Gaza to evacuate to. Now the camp has been “completely flattened”, he said.

“The vast majority of the casualties right now have been among civilians, including [a] two weeks [old] baby that has been killed in cold blood in this genocide,” said Azzoum.

He compared the attack with one on the Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza last week, in which at least 90 people were killed.

The Maghazi camp was attacked last month as well when at least 50 Palestinians were killed.

Azzoum said the camp’s surrounding areas had been subjected to intense Israeli shelling in the last couple of days.

The nearest hospital to the camp is Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital but health facilities have been rendered non-functional across Gaza as Israel continues to bombard the territory for a third month, killing more than 20,400 Palestinians since October 7 and displacing more than 80 percent of the 2.3 million people who live there.

“The entire medical care system in Gaza Strip is deteriorating and [is] on the edge of collapse,” said Azzoum.

Hamas called the air attack on the Maghazi camp “a horrific massacre” and said it was “a new war crime”.

Israel’s military spokesperson’s office said it was looking into reports of the attack.

Since the UN Security Council resolution passed on Friday, boosting aid to Gaza, the scale of air raids has only increased in magnitude, Mahmoud noted.

“There is a huge gap between the sheer level of destruction being caused by Israeli forces and the promise of more aid,” he remarked.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies