The Hamas-run Health Ministry claimed on Tuesday that more than 700 people had been killed in the Gaza Strip over the past day alone, with medical facilities across the Strip forced to close because of bombing damage and a lack of power.
Hamas has asserted that the death toll in Gaza since the war began with its October 7 massacres in Israeli communities has hit 5,700 people, a figure that cannot be verified. That figure includes the 471 people Hamas said were killed in an explosion at a hospital last week which it blames on Israel, although widely endorsed Israeli evidence has made it clear a failed Islamic Jihad rocket was to blame. US and European intelligence assessments have suggested that the true death toll in that incident was 50-150.
Hamas has not said how many of those killed were terrorist operatives targeted by the IDF military campaign.
Israel says it does not target civilians and that Hamas terrorists are entrenched within the civilian population and use them as cover for their attacks. Terrorists have fired more than 7,000 rockets at Israel since the start of the war, Israel says. It also says hundreds of rockets fired by terrorists have fallen in Gaza, potentially causing some of the casualties.
Gaza’s 2.3 million people have been under increasing bombardment and running out of food, water and medicine since Israel sealed off the territory following the murderous rampage launched on October 7 by Hamas terrorists on towns and a music festival in southern Israel, killing around 1,400 people, the vast majority of whom were civilians, and taking over 220 people captive.
On Tuesday, Israel said it had launched 400 airstrikes over the past day, killing Hamas commanders, hitting terrorists as they were preparing to launch rockets into Israel and striking command centers and a Hamas tunnel shaft.
An overnight strike hit a four-story residential building in the southern city of Khan Younis, killing at least 32 people and wounding scores of others, according to survivors.
The fatalities included 13 from the Saqallah family, said Ammar al-Butta, a relative who survived the airstrike. He said there were about 100 people there, including many who had come from Gaza City, which Israel has ordered civilians to evacuate.
“They were sheltering at our home because we thought that our area would be safe. But apparently, there is no safe place in Gaza,” he said.
Another airstrike hit a bustling marketplace in the Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza, killing several shoppers and wounding dozens, witnesses said.
Men used sledgehammers to break up concrete and dug with their bare hands through the jagged wreckage to save anyone they could – or at least recover the dead who had been buying meat and vegetables when the explosion hit.
A man buried up to his chest in rubble looked up at his rescuers with wide eyes, his face coated in dust from the blast. An oxygen mask was placed on his face as they spent 15 minutes working to free him.
The World Health Organization said that a total of 46 out of 72 primary healthcare facilities, and 12 out of 35 hospitals, have stopped functioning in Gaza. Gaza’s five main hospitals were all filled beyond capacity, it said.
Palestinian health officials said the lack of electricity and fuel to power generators from the Israeli blockade, as well as damage from airstrikes, has forced many of the facilities to close. The IDF said Tuesday that Hamas is holding at least half a million liters of fuel for its military purposes, withholding it from hospitals.
Israel has agreed to allow trucks carrying food, water and medical supplies to enter Gaza through the Rafah crossing with Egypt, although it had repeatedly vowed that no fuel will be allowed to enter unless Hamas releases all hostages believed to be held captive in the Gaza Strip.
Gazans say that Palestinians are struggling to bury the huge numbers of dead, with cemeteries being forced to excavate and reuse old plots and bury up to five bodies in one grave.
“Bodies pour in by the hundreds every day. We use every empty inch in the cemeteries,” said Abdel Rahman Mohamed, a volunteer who helps transfer bodies to Khan Younis’s main cemetery. “Some bodies arrive in pieces in bags. It’s horrible.”
The UN agency for Palestinian refugees said six of its staff were killed in bombings, bringing to 35 the death toll of its workers since the war started.