Israeli air raids kill at least 55 in Gaza overnight, Hamas says

Israeli’s attacks come as military readies for an expected ground offensive on the besieged enclave.

Palestinians react to the damage after overnight Israeli strikes on Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on October 22, 2023
Israeli air raids destroyed about 30 homes in Gaza overnight, according to Palestinian officials [File: Said Khatib/AFP]

Israel’s overnight air raids have killed at least 55 people and destroyed 30 homes in Gaza, authorities in the besieged enclave said, marking an escalation in Israel’s air campaign in advance of an expected ground invasion.

The Hamas government press office said in a statement that “more than 55” people were killed in Saturday night’s attacks.

The casualties add to the more than 4,300 Palestinians, mostly civilians, who have been killed in Israel’s bombing campaign on Gaza, according to Gaza’s Ministry of Health.

Israel has pledged to eliminate Hamas after the armed group’s October 7 attacks inside the country, which Israeli officials say killed more than 1,400 people, mostly civilians.

Israeli air raids have damaged or destroyed 40 percent of Gaza’s housing, according to the United Nations, reducing much of the enclave to ruins.

Israel has ordered 1.1 million Palestinians in Gaza to evacuate southwards as it readies for a ground incursion into the enclave for the first time in nearly a decade.

However, the southern portion of Gaza has not been spared from air attacks, with nine people killed in the southern city of Khan Younis on Saturday night, according to Hamas authorities.

Israel warns Gazans

Palestinians have said they had received renewed warnings from Israel’s military to move from north Gaza to the south of the strip, with the added warning that they could be identified as sympathisers with a “terrorist organisation” if they stayed put.

“Urgent warning, to residents of Gaza. Your presence north of Wadi Gaza puts your life in danger. Whoever chooses not to leave north Gaza to the south of Wadi Gaza might be identified as an accomplice in a terrorist organisation,” the leaflet said.

Israel’s military has pledged to intensify air raids in the coming days to minimise risks to its troops when they move in on Gaza.

The expected ground offensive has raised fears of more civilian deaths due to the limited options for safe haven in the densely populated enclave, which has been under an Israeli blockade since 2006. More than one million people have been displaced in Gaza, according to UN estimates.

“From today, we are increasing the strikes and minimising the danger,” Israeli military spokesperson Admiral Daniel Hagari said on Saturday.

“We will increase the attacks and therefore I called on Gaza City residents to continue moving south for their safety.”

Israeli troops are expected to encounter numerous challenges during a ground invasion, including the presence of Hamas booby traps and tunnels. The safety of an estimated 200 captives being held by Hamas is another complicating factor.

“Gaza is densely populated, the enemy is preparing a lot of things there – but we are also preparing for them,” Israeli Lieutenant-General Herzi Halevi said.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies