About 2 million Palestinians, almost the entire population of Gaza, are now crammed into the territory’s southern half. They are running out of space where they can flee and seek shelter. Israel pounded targets in the southern part of the enclave Saturday and ordered the evacuation of civilians from more neighborhoods it has designated for strikes there.
The Israeli military published an online map dividing the Gaza Strip into hundreds of numbered parcels and asked residents to familiarize themselves with the number of their location ahead of evacuation warnings.
U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris said Saturday that too many Palestinians are being killed in Gaza and urged Israel to do more to protect them as she presented a broad U.S. vision for post-war Gaza.
At a news conference on the sidelines of the COP28 summit in Dubai, Harris said Israel has a legitimate right to conduct military operations against Hamas, a U.S.-designated terror group, after it launched terror attacks on Israeli civilians on October 7. The attacks killed 1,200 people, and an estimated 240 people were abducted. About 100 have been released in exchange for Palestinian prisoners during the just-ended seven-day truce.
It was not clear if Israel’s military would heed appeals by the United States to spare civilians during its strikes, as it has vowed to wipe out Hamas from the enclave.
Hamas also is known to prevent people from leaving areas to be evacuated ahead of Israeli strikes, using them as human shields, and embedding itself in and underneath hospitals and other civilian areas.
The Israeli military said Saturday it hit more than 400 Hamas targets across Gaza over the past day, using airstrikes and shelling from tanks and navy gunships. It included more than 50 strikes in the city of Khan Younis and surrounding areas in the southern half of Gaza.
Saturday strikes in the south of Gaza struck mosques, homes and close to a hospital.
At least nine people, including three children, were killed in a strike on a house in Deir al-Balah city in the south, according to the hospital where the bodies were taken. The hospital also received seven bodies of others killed in overnight airstrikes, including two children.
“Hell on earth”
In northern Gaza, an airstrike destroyed a residential building hosting displaced families in the urban refugee camp of Jabaliya on the outskirts of Gaza City. The strike on the multistory building left dozens dead or wounded, said residents Hamza Obeid and Amal Radwan.
“Hell on earth has returned to Gaza,” said Jens Laerke, spokesperson for the U.N. humanitarian office in Geneva, on Friday.
“Today those in power decided that the killing of children would recommence in Gaza,” UNICEF spokesperson James Elder said via video link from Rafah, Gaza, calling the conflict a “war on children.”
Elder stressed the dire lack of nutrition, water and sanitation in Gaza and pleaded for a lasting cease-fire. He said the alternative is unthinkable for people already living in a nightmare.
“Inaction, at its core, is an approval of the killing of children,” he said.
In southern Israel, sirens were heard in communities near the Gaza Strip, but there were no immediate reports of damage or injuries.
Reuters said it could not confirm the battlefield accounts.
After the breakdown of the truce, the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced it has instructed its negotiating team in Doha to return to Israel.
Report says U.S. provided massive bombs
The Wall Street Journal is reporting the United States has provided Israel with massive bombs and artillery shells worth “hundreds of millions of dollars,” while at the same time admonishing Israel to limit civilian casualties.
The report — quoting unnamed U.S. officials — said, “The U.S. has provided Israel with large bunker buster bombs, among tens of thousands of other weapons and artillery shells, to help dislodge Hamas from Gaza.”
The tally of arms includes “roughly 15,000 bombs and 57,000 artillery shells” supplied to Israel shortly after October 7, and it “has continued in recent days,” according to U.S. officials.
In Syria, the defense ministry said Israel carried out airstrikes near Damascus early Saturday. Syrian state media reported that military defenses shot down most of the Israeli missiles and said there were no reports of casualties.
Israel security envelope
Meanwhile, Israel has presented some of its neighboring states with plans to carve out a buffer zone on the Palestinian side of Gaza’s border with Israel to avert future attacks after the war ends.
“Israel will have to have a security envelope. We can never again allow terrorists to cross the border and butcher our people the way they did on October 7,” Mark Regev, a senior adviser to Netanyahu, said Saturday.
“That is not Israel taking territory from Gaza,” said Regev. “On the contrary, that is creating security zones where you have a special situation on the ground which limits the ability of people to enter Israel to kill our people. It’s common sense,” he said.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said last month that Washington wants Palestinians to govern Gaza and does not want to see the territory reoccupied by Israel, blockaded or reduced in size.
Some information for this story came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.