At least 29 Palestinians have been killed in an Israeli air strike in a residential area of Rafah in southern Gaza while a hospital has been raided in north Gaza and 13 people were killed in an attack on a refugee camp in that part of the enclave.
Tens of thousands of displaced Palestinians have crammed into Rafah on Gaza’s border with Egypt to escape Israeli bombardments farther north despite fears that they will also not be safe there.
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“Three residential buildings in one area were destroyed in the attack,” Al Jazeera’s Hani Mahmoud said from Rafah on Tuesday.
The number of casualties was expected to rise as more bodies were pulled from the rubble, under which people were also trapped, he said.
Journalist Adel Zoroub was among the 29 people killed in the air raid in Rafah, the Government Media Office in Gaza said on its Telegram channel.
Separately, at least 13 Palestinians were killed and many more injured in an Israeli air raid on the Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Health in the enclave said.
Fierce battles raged in northern Gaza, where Hamas continues to put up stiff resistance across what is now a battered wasteland seven weeks after Israeli tanks and soldiers stormed in.
Ashraf al-Qudra, the Ministry of Health spokesperson in Gaza, said on Tuesday that Israeli forces turned al-Awda Hospital in northern Gaza into barracks after detaining more than 240 people.
Those being held included “80 hospital staff, 40 patients and 120 displaced people inside the hospital”, he said.
They arrested six of the hospital’s staff, including the director of the facility, Ahmed Muhanna, according to al-Qudra.
Israeli forces also raided Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City overnight and into Tuesday, according to the church that operates it, destroying a wall at its front entrance and detaining most of its staff.
Don Binder, a pastor at St George’s Anglican Cathedral in occupied East Jerusalem, which runs the hospital, was quoted by The Associated Press news agency as saying that the raid left just two doctors, four nurses and two janitors to tend to more than 100 seriously wounded patients with no running water or electricity.
“It has been a great mercy for the many wounded in Gaza City that we were able to keep our Ahli Anglican Hospital open for so long,” Binder wrote in a Facebook post late on Monday. “That ended today.”
He said an Israeli tank was parked on the rubble at the hospital’s entrance, blocking anyone from entering or leaving.
There was no immediate comment from the Israeli military, which has continued to target and raid healthcare facilities in the enclave.
A World Health Organization (WHO) official said on Monday that the Kamal Adwan Hospital in northern Gaza, which Israeli troops raided last week, had stopped functioning and patients, including babies, have been evacuated.
“We cannot afford to lose any hospitals,” said Richard Peeperkorn, the WHO representative for Gaza.
Peeperkorn also said about 4,000 displaced people taking refuge on the grounds of the Nasser Medical Complex in Khan Younis in southern Gaza were at risk as Israel pursues military operations there.
The Gaza Health Ministry said on Tuesday that 19,667 Palestinians had been killed and 52,586 wounded in the Israeli assault on the Hamas-ruled enclave since the war began on October 7.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has promised to achieve total victory over Hamas, whose fighters killed about 1,140 people and took 240 captive in a surprise October 7 raid into Israel, according to Israeli tallies.
Israel’s intensifying attacks in Gaza have created an uproar among many governments and international organisations over the civilian death toll, hunger and homelessness.
‘Clear progress’ in talks
Meanwhile, talks for another truce between the sides continue with the mediation efforts led by Qatar amid repeated calls for the end of hostilities by the international community.
Al Jazeera’s Alan Fisher, reporting from occupied East Jerusalem, said there was “clear progress” towards a potential new prisoner exchange deal between Israel and Hamas after Bill Burns, the director of the US Central Intelligence Agency, flew to Warsaw for negotiations with David Barnea, the head of Israel’s Mossad intelligence service, and Qatar’s prime minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani.
However, as Israel points to mid-January as the timetable for the “next stage of the war”, there is the possibility Hamas may decide “just to sit tight” until then “to see how things play out”, Fisher said.
Hamas may wait until then “to give up any of the captives and use them as a bargaining chip when things actually start to change on the ground”, he added.
A senior Hamas official on Tuesday rejected holding negotiations during the war but said the group was open to any initiative to end it.
“We affirm our position of categorically rejecting to hold any form of negotiations over prisoners exchange under the continuing Israeli genocidal war,” Basem Naem said in a statement.
“We are, however, open to any initiative that contributes to ending the aggression on our people and opening the crossings to bring in aid and provide relief to the Palestinian people,” he added.
Israeli President Isaac Herzog signalled readiness to enter into another truce to recover captives held in Gaza and enable more aid to reach the besieged Palestinian enclave.
“Israel is ready for another humanitarian pause and additional humanitarian aid in order to enable the release of hostages,” Herzog told a gathering of ambassadors, according to his office.
“And the responsibility lies fully with [Hamas leader Yahya] Sinwar and Hamas leadership,” he said.
On Monday, Hamas’s armed wing, the Qassam Brigades, posted a one-minute video of three elderly Israeli captives pleading for their immediate release.