Israeli airstrikes pounded the southern Gaza Strip city of Khan Younis on Saturday, killing nearly a dozen people, Gazan officials said, after days of similar attacks in the enclave’s south, where more than a million Palestinians have fled to escape Israel’s war.
Israeli bombing continued in other parts of Gaza as well, killing dozens, according to Palestinian state media and health authorities.
On Saturday, the Gaza Health Ministry said at least 160 people had been killed in the coastal enclave over the previous 24 hours, raising the Palestinian death toll from the three-month-old Israeli offensive to nearly 25,000, the majority of them women and children.
The Israeli strikes on Khan Younis targeted the areas around two major hospitals, where tens of thousands of Palestinian civilians had sought refuge, as well as near schools, witnesses say. Schools and hospitals have become overcrowded shelters but have not been spared from Israel’s unrelenting assault on the besieged territory.
A number of airstrikes and artillery shells hit the vicinity of the Al-Amal Hospital in Khan Younis, according to the Palestine Red Crescent, which runs the hospital.
A doctor at a second hospital in Khan Younis, Nasser Medical Complex, said that Israeli troops and tanks have taken up positions near the hospital compound, and fears are growing that the soldiers will raid the hospital as they have other medical centers, including Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. Israel has accused Hamas of using hospitals for military operations, a charge Hamas and hospital administrations deny.
The doctor, Mohammad Abu Moussa, said many people have fled Nasser hospital in recent days, taking what little possessions they have with them, including bedding and tents. Hospital staff, including doctors and nurses, are also leaving, he said. “Even the wounded are fleeing,” Dr. Abu Moussa said.
The Israeli military said on Saturday it had killed a squad of fighters from Hamas, the armed group which controls Gaza, in close-quarters combat in Khan Younis. The military said it conducted a “targeted raid” on Hamas “infrastructure” where dozens of rocket launchers were located.
Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip, home to 2.3 million Palestinians, has left nowhere safe, the United Nations, aid organizations and residents say. Even areas where the Israeli military has ordered people to go have come under attack. The overwhelming Israeli air and ground offensives came after Hamas carried out cross-border attacks into southern Israel on Oct. 7 and killed some 1,200 people, most of them civilians, according to Israeli authorities.
The Israeli bombing offensive has pushed more than a million Palestinians into an ever smaller corner of Gaza, trapping people between a closed Egyptian border and an advancing Israeli military. They are squeezed into an extremely crowded area near the border in the Rafah province, the United Nations says. Egypt has refused to let Gazans cross into Sinai, fearing they will never be allowed to return home by Israel.
The Israeli army has also attacked the central city of Deir al-Balah, another place where Gazans had fled to seek safety, forcing them toward Rafah, U.N. officials said.
Mohammed Aborjela, 27, a project coordinator with the development organization Youth Without Borders, said in an interview that he had been sheltering at Nasser hospital for weeks, along with thousands of other displaced people. “It was considered one of the safe places in Khan Yunis,” he said.
“Three days ago, at night, there was a very violent bombardment around Nasser Hospital,” he said. The sounds of combat and tank fire pierced the air. There were no warnings from the Israeli military beforehand, he said.
Mr. Aborjela said he packed his belongings, fled the hospital and moved about half a mile away toward the coastline. Israeli airstrikes are still hitting nearby, he said.
“People are running in the streets now, not knowing where to go,” he said. Many people are trying to get to Rafah or to Al-Mawasi, a coastal area west of Khan Younis. “But they have no money to transport their belongings or to set up tents in other places.”
At times there is a lull in the bombardment, he said, but it never lasts. Airstrikes eventually start again, and the Israeli military continues to advance southward, deeper into Khan Younis.
“No one understands what’s happening,” he said.
Rawan Sheikh Ahmad contributed reporting.