Israel presses Gaza offensive hours after deadly airstrike on tent camp

Israel presses Gaza offensive hours after deadly airstrike on tent camp Palestinians sit near a damaged tent at the site of an Israeli strike near a school sheltering displaced people, amid Israel-Hamas conflict, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip July 10, 2024. REUTERS/Hatem Khaled

By Nidal al-Mughrabi

CAIRO (Reuters) - Israeli forces pressed their offensive in north and central Gaza on Wednesday, hours after an airstrike on a tent encampment that Palestinian officials said killed more than two dozen people and as negotiations to end the fighting were set to resume.

Leaflets were dropped on Gaza City, this time with a map marking "safe routes" for the evacuation of the whole city, not just certain districts. The Israeli leaflets urge civilians to head south along two routes to the central Gaza Strip.

The militant group Hamas said the renewed Israeli campaign killed more than 60 Palestinians across the enclave on Tuesday and threatened to derail efforts to secure a ceasefire in the nine-month-old war with talks to resume in Doha on Wednesday.

The airstrike hit the tents of displaced families outside a school in the town of Abassan east of Khan Younis in southern Gaza, killing at least 29 people, most of them women and children, Palestinian medical officials said.

The Israeli military said it was reviewing reports that civilians were harmed. It said the incident occurred when it struck with "precise munition" a Hamas fighter who took part in the Oct. 7 raid on Israel that precipitated the Israeli assault on Gaza.

On Wednesday, Israeli forces deepened their incursion into two Gaza City districts. Soldiers carried out house-to-house searches in some areas and tanks shelled several homes, according to residents.

Israeli forces patrolled the main road to the coast, snipers commandeered rooftops of some high-rise buildings still standing and tanks were stationed inside the headquarters of the U.N. Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA, residents said.

The Israeli military said in a statement its forces were continuing operations in Gaza City against militants of Hamas and its ally Islamic Jihad, who they said had operated from inside the UNRWA facilities, using it as a base for attacks.

"After a defined corridor was opened to facilitate the evacuation of civilians from the area, IDF troops conducted a targeted raid on the structure, eliminated terrorists in close-quarters combat, and located large amounts of weapons in the area," the military said.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said it had received dozens of desperate calls from residents in Gaza City trapped in their homes but their teams were unable to reach them because of the intensity of the bombing.

"The information coming from Gaza City shows residents are living through tragic conditions. (Israeli) occupation forces continue to hit residential districts, and displace people from their homes and refuge shelters," it said in a statement.

The armed wings of Hamas and Islamic Jihad said fighters fought with Israeli forces operating in the area with anti-tank rockets and mortar bombs, and sometimes in close-range combat.

In the central Gaza camp of Al-Nuseirat, medics said six Palestinians, including children, were killed in an airstrike on a house early on Wednesday, while another airstrike killed two people and wounded several others in Khan Younis.

More than 38,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since the start of the war, health officials in the Hamas-run territory said.

The war erupted when militants led by Hamas infiltrated southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and taking around 250 hostages back to Gaza, according to Israeli figures.

(Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi; Editing by Ros Russell)

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