178 Palestinians killed as Israel resumes attacks on Gaza houses
December 1, 2023 09:24 AM
Israel resumed its deadly bombardment of Gaza on Friday after a truce broke down, saying it struck more than 200 targets in the densely inhabited Palestinian territory despite international calls for a renewed pause.
Clouds of grey smoke from strikes shot up on the Gaza skyline and rockets fired from the territory streaked into Israel after Hamas's armed wing received "the order to resume combat," according to a source close to the Palestinian militant group.
The Hamas-run health ministry said at least 178 people had been killed in Gaza since the pause in hostilities expired early Friday and ground battles and Israel air strikes resumed.
UN agencies warned of a catastrophic humanitarian situation in Gaza as hospitals again struggled to cope with the wounded after a week-long respite.
The truce had seen Hamas release Israeli hostages in exchange for Palestinians prisoners and paused weeks of fighting sparked by the group's deadly attacks on Israel on October 7.
Israel alleged that Hamas attempted to break the truce before it ended at 0500 GMT by firing a rocket, and that it failed to produce a list of further hostages that could have been released on Friday.
United Nations chief Antonio Guterres and the White House called for the break in fighting to be restored.
"We continue to work with Israel, Egypt and Qatar on efforts to extend the humanitarian pause in Gaza," a US National Security Council spokesperson said, after Secretary of State Antony Blinken left Israel following diplomatic efforts to shore up the truce.
- 'Mother of all thumpings' -
Seven days of hostage-prisoner exchanges had yielded tearful reunions of Israeli families with their released relatives and jubilation in the streets of the occupied West Bank as Palestinian prisoners walked free from Israeli jails.
Israel accused Hamas of failing to secure an extension of the truce on Friday by not releasing a new group of hostages and firing a rocket at Israel.
Blinken told reporters later in Dubai that the United States remained "intensely focused on getting everyone home, getting hostages back" and "pursuing the process that had worked for seven days" during the truce.
But Israeli government spokesman Eylon Levy told reporters: "Having chosen to hold onto our women, Hamas will now take the mother of all thumpings."
The Israeli military said "ground, air and naval forces struck terror targets in the north and south of the Gaza Strip, including in Khan Yunis and Rafah."
AFP journalists saw, and visited the aftermath, of several bombings.
Outside the Al-Ahli hospital in Gaza City, a man in a blue sweater bellowed in grief and turned his face to the sky after viewing a dead teenage boy in a body bag, AFPTV footage showed.
"What did he do wrong? God, what did we do to deserve this?" he yelled.
- 'Horror movie' -
During the unprecedented October 7 attack, Hamas fighters broke through Gaza's militarised border into Israel, killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapped around 240, according to Israeli authorities.
In response, Israel vowed to eliminate Hamas and unleashed an air and ground campaign that the Hamas authorities who run Gaza say has killed more than 15,000 people, also mostly civilians.
Guterres has warned of a "humanitarian catastrophe" in Gaza.
The United Nations says 1.7 million people there are displaced and short of food, water and other essentials.
"The healthcare service is on its knees," Rob Holden, a World Health Organisation (WHO) senior emergency officer, told journalists in Geneva on a video-link from Gaza as explosions were heard in the background.
"It is like a horror movie."
On a bed at Khan Yunis's Nasser hospital, Amal Abu Dagga wept, her beige veil covered in blood.
"I don't even know what happened to my children," she said. Another relative, Jamil Abu Dagga, told AFP the family had been at home when the bombs started falling.
In Israel, sirens warning of potential missiles sounded in several communities near Gaza, and authorities said they were restarting security measures in the area, including closing schools.
A rocket strike destroyed a van in one Israeli community near Gaza.
- 'Evacuation zones' -
Mediation efforts by Qatar and Egypt were "ongoing", said a source briefed on the talks.
During the seven-day truce, Hamas freed 80 Israeli hostages in exchange for 240 Palestinian prisoners, and more aid entered Gaza.
Twenty-five other hostages, mostly Thais, were also freed in separate arrangements.
On Thursday Blinken, meeting Israeli and Palestinian officials, called for the truce to be extended, and warned any resumption of combat must protect Palestinian civilians.
The Israeli military published a map of "evacuation zones" in the Gaza Strip that it said would enable residents to "evacuate from specific places for their safety if required".
Residents in various areas of Gaza were sent SMS warnings on Friday.
Israeli forces "will begin a crushing military attack on your area of residence with the aim of eliminating the terrorist organisation Hamas," the warnings said.
"Stay away from all military activity of every kind."
- Children held hostage -
On Thursday, eight Israeli hostages, some holding dual nationality, were released in the seventh round of exchanges under the truce.
The country's prison service later said another 30 Palestinian prisoners -- 23 minors and seven women -- had been freed.
Hamas said it had also offered to hand over the bodies of a mother and her two sons -- one of them a baby -- in talks to extend the now-expired truce.
Israeli officials refused to comment on what they called Hamas "propaganda".
Shiri Bibas, her 10-month-old son Kfir and his four-year-old brother Ariel, along with their father Yarden, have become emblematic of the October 7 attacks.
Hours after the truce collapsed, Israeli bombardment killed three people in southern Lebanon, one of them a Hezbollah member, according to the Iran-backed militant group.
Hezbollah meanwhile claimed its first attacks on Israel since the truce ended.