- Israel air and artillery strikes hit Gaza.
- International concern deepens over increasing civilian death toll.
- Israel says two of its soldiers have died in combat, the first since the truce ended.
Israel struck Gaza targets in its war on Hamas sparked by the , as international concern deepened over the mounting civilian death toll on the third day of fighting
More than 15,500 people have been killed in the besieged Palestinian territory, according to the Hamas-run health ministry, in more than eight weeks of combat and heavy bombardment.
The Israeli military said its ground forces were active across the Gaza Strip as Israeli forces bombed swathes of the enclave on Sunday, killing and wounding dozens of Palestinians, as civilians sought shelter in a shrinking area of the south.
The Hamas Palestinian militant group said its fighters clashed with Israeli troops about 2 km (1 mile) from the southern city of Khan Younis. Residents, many of whom had moved there to flee earlier attacks in the Israel-Palestinian conflict, said they could hear tank fire and feared a new Israeli ground offensive was building.
The Israeli military earlier ordered people to evacuate some areas in and near the city, but made no announcement of any new southern ground assault.
“The IDF (Israel Defence Forces) continues to extend its ground operation against Hamas centres in all of the Gaza Strip,” spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari told reporters in Tel Aviv in the clearest sign its planned ground offensive in the south had begun. “The forces are coming face-to-face with terrorists and killing them.”
The UN humanitarian agency OCHA said at least 160 Palestinian deaths were reported in two incidents in northern Gaza: the bombing of a six-storey building in Jabalia refugee camp, and of an entire block in Gaza City.
The war broke out when Hamas militants burst through Gaza’s militarised border into Israel on 7 October and killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, while also taking around 240 hostages, according to Israeli authorities.
Hamas is a Palestinian military and political group, which has gained power in the Gaza Strip since winning legislative elections there in 2006. Its stated aim is to establish a Palestinian state, while refusing to recognise Israel’s right to exist.
Hamas, in its entirety, is designated as a terrorist organisation by countries including Australia, Canada, the UK and the US. New Zealand and Paraguay list only its military wing as a terrorist group. In 2018, the United Nations General Assembly voted against a resolution condemning Hamas in its entirety as a terrorist organisation.
A seven-day truce, led to the release of 80 Israeli hostages in exchange for 240 Palestinian prisoners before it expired early Friday. More than two dozen other captives were freed from Gaza under separate arrangements.
After the unprecedented attacks, Israel unleashed an air and ground campaign with the stated aim of destroying Hamas, which Gaza authorities say has killed mostly women and children.
The Israeli military said it had carried out around 10,000 air strikes since the war started.
The army also said it had located more than 800 shafts to Hamas tunnels and “destroyed” about 500 of them, adding that many were near or inside civilian buildings such as schools and mosques.
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk voiced alarm that hundreds of thousands of Gazans “are being confined into ever smaller areas” in the southern of the territory.
Hamas and another militant group, Islamic Jihad, announced “rocket barrages” against multiple Israeli cities and towns including Tel Aviv, and Israel said two of its soldiers had died in combat, the first since the truce ended.
The military said a drone strike had “eliminated” five Hamas militants.
Fighter jets and helicopters had also struck “tunnel shafts, command centres and weapons storage facilities” while naval forces hit Hamas vessels and weapons, it said.
Fighting also flared on Israel’s northern border with Lebanon.
The Israeli army said it had launched artillery strikes in response to cross-border fire, and its fighter jets hit several targets linked to
Iran-backed Hezbollah said it had launched several attacks on Israeli positions, including a missile strike on a military vehicle.
Israel’s ally the United States, which provides it with billions of dollars in military aid annually, has intensified calls for the protection of Gaza’s civilians.
Israeli government spokesman Eylon Levy said that the blame for the deaths lay with Hamas and those killed “would still be alive” had the group not carried out the 7 October attacks.
In a new estimate, OCHA said around 1.8 million people in Gaza, roughly 75 percent of the population, had been displaced, many to overcrowded and unsanitary shelters.
Gazans are short of food, water and other essentials, and the aid reaching them is “a drop in the ocean of needs,” said Adnan Abu Hasna, a spokesman for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA.