The prospect of further cease-fires in Gaza appeared bleak, as Israel recalled its negotiators and Hamas’ deputy leader said any further swap of detainees would only happen as part of ending the war.
At least 200 Palestinians were killed after the fighting resumed Friday morning following the weeklong truce, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. Several multi-story residential buildings were hit on Saturday, engulfing neighbourhoods in huge clouds of smoke.
The Israeli occupation army also dropped leaflets ordering the evacuation of areas that make up about one-quarter of the Gaza Strip, with hundreds of thousands of residents, U.N. monitors said. Ahead of a resumption of fighting, the United States had warned Israel to avoid significant new mass displacement.
Separately, the Palestinian ministry said the overall death toll of the Israeli mass killing in Gaza since the Oct. 7 start of the war surpassed 15,200, with 70% of them being children and women while more than 40,000 people had been wounded since the war began.
“Too many innocent Palestinians have been killed. Frankly, the scale of civilian suffering and the images and videos coming from Gaza are devastating,” U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris told reporters during the COP28 climate conference in Dubai.
Appeals from the U.S., Israel's closest ally, to protect civilians came after an attack in the first weeks of the war devastated large areas of northern Gaza. Some 2 million Palestinians, almost Gaza's entire population, are now crammed into the territory's southern half.
Bombardments on Saturday destroyed a block of about 50 residential buildings in the Shijaiyah neighbourhood of Gaza City and a six-story building in the urban refugee camp of Jabaliya on the northern edge of the city, said the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
More than 60 people were killed in the Shijaiyah strikes and more than 300 were buried under the rubble, the monitors said, citing the Palestinian Red Crescent.
The strike in Jabaliya left dozens dead or wounded, said residents Hamza Obeid and Amal Radwan.
“The building turned into a pile of rubble,” Obeid said. AP video showed smoke rising as men, some in sandals, picked their way over debris. The residential building was hit 90 minutes after Israeli troops had dropped leaflets ordering residents to evacuate, U.N. monitors said.
A powerful strike also hit a cluster of multi-story buildings in Hamad City, a Qatari-funded housing development on the outskirts of Khan Younis. Smoke engulfed the complex. There was no immediate word on casualties.
“Where is it safe? I swear to God, no one knows, where we are going?” asked Zohair al Raai, who said his family received a recorded message saying their building should evacuate.
Meanwhile, Palestinian groups in Gaza said they fired a barrage of rockets on southern Israel. Peter Lerner, an Israeli army spokesperson, said Hamas had launched more than 250 since the cease-fire ended.
During a Saturday visit to Israel and the West Bank city of Ramallah, an International Criminal Court prosecutor said his office is serious about moving forward to investigate allegations of war crimes.
“Every actor should be without doubts that they must comply with the law now,” Karim Khan told broadcaster Palestine TV. “And if you don’t comply with the law now, don’t complain later.”
With the resumption of fighting, the Israeli occupation army published an online map carving up Gaza into hundreds of numbered parcels and asked residents to familiarize themselves with the number of their locations ahead of evacuation warnings.
On Saturday, the army listed more than two dozen parcel numbers around Gaza City and east of Khan Younis. Separately, it dropped leaflets with evacuation orders over towns east of Khan Younis, Jabaliya and eastern neighbourhoods of Gaza City.
One Khan Younis resident said a neighbour received a call from the Israeli army warning that houses in the area would be hit. “We told them, ‘We have nothing here, why do you want to strike it?’" said the resident, Hikmat al-Qidra. Al-Qidra said the house was destroyed.
The maps and leaflets generated panic and confusion in the crowded south, where people could not go to northern Gaza and were left to move around within the 220-square-kilometer (85-square-mile) area.
“There is no place to go,” said Emad Hajar, who fled to Khan Younis a month ago. “They expelled us from the north, and now they are pushing us to leave the south."
Israel claimed to have killed thousands of Palestinian fighters, without providing evidence. Israel says 77 of its soldiers have been killed in the offensive in northern Gaza.
Also Saturday, the Palestinian Red Crescent said it had received the first convoy of aid trucks through the Rafah crossing with Egypt since fighting resumed. Wael Abu Omar, a spokesman for the Palestinian Crossings Authority, said 100 trucks entered including three carrying 150,000 litres (nearly 40,000 gallons) of fuel.
Meanwhile, Harris told Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi in a meeting that “under no circumstances” would the U.S. permit the forced relocation of Palestinians from Gaza or the occupied West Bank, an ongoing siege of Gaza or the redrawing of its borders, according to a U.S. summary.
* This story has been edited by Ahram Online.