More than 700 Palestinians were killed in overnight Israeli air raids on Gaza, according to Palestinian officials, the highest 24-hour death toll since Israel began bombarding the besieged territory earlier this month.
The Israeli military said on Tuesday it hit more than 400 “Hamas targets” and killed dozens of Hamas fighters in the attacks, and warned that it would take time to achieve its aim of destroying the Palestinian group.
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Israel launched an assault on Gaza after Hamas fighters killed at least 1,400 people in a surprise attack on southern Israel on October 7.
The Ministry of Health in Gaza, which is governed by Hamas, has said at least 5,791 Palestinians, including 2,360 children, have been killed in the Israeli assault.
A total of 704 people were killed in the previous 24 hours alone, the ministry said on Tuesday.
Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said it was the highest 24-hour number of deaths in the two weeks of the Israeli bombing campaign.
“Thousands of families have been instantly displaced; it’s just full of rubble and debris everywhere,” said Al Jazeera’s Youmna ElSayed, reporting from Gaza.
“You can hear the sound of drones and Israeli jets in the sky. Everyone feels that there is no safe place in the Strip to be in any more.”
The Israeli military said it killed three Hamas deputy commanders in the attacks.
Witnesses and health officials said many of the air raids hit residential buildings, some of them in southern Gaza where Israel had told civilians to take shelter.
One overnight attack levelled a four-storey residential building in the southern city of Khan Younis, killing at least 32 people and wounding dozens of others, survivors told The Associated Press news agency.
In Gaza City, at least 19 people were killed when an air raid hit the house of the Bahloul family, according to survivors, who said dozens more people remained buried. Workers pulled at least two children out of the collapsed building.
In addition to bombarding the territory, Israel has cut access to food, water, medicine and fuel in a “complete siege”.
More than 40 medical centres have stopped operations due to the shortages and the damage caused by the bombing, the Health Ministry spokesperson said.
Several aid trucks have crossed from Egypt to Gaza since Sunday, but the United Nations has warned of a “humanitarian catastrophe” if aid shipments were not ramped up significantly.
Jeremey Laurence, spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), said, “The aid which resumed from Egypt over the weekend is a mere drop in the ocean of what is needed.”
Fuel, which has been left out of the deliveries due to the agreement with Israel, was crucial, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) said.
“Fuel is extremely urgent because, without fuel, the trucks themselves cannot move,” UNRWA spokesperson Tamara Alrifai said. “Without fuel, the generators cannot produce electricity for hospitals, for bakeries and for the water desalination plant.”
UN humanitarian agencies said on Tuesday they were on their “knees” pleading for unimpeded aid to enter Gaza.