Southern Gaza bombarded as Israeli military warn residents to evacuate

Southern Gaza has been bombarded by the Israeli military for a second day as it warned Palestinian residents to evacuate.

Air strikes and artillery bombardments have hit Khan Younis in the south of the enclave as Israel resumed its offensive against Hamas for a second day after a week-long truce.

Palestinian residents reported houses and open areas had been hit and three mosques destroyed in Khan Younis on Saturday and columns of smoke could be seen rising in the sky.

Smoke was seen billowing over the Palestinian territory amid battles between Israel and the militant group Hamas. (Photo: Jack Guez/ AFP/ Getty)

The Israeli military claimed in the last 24 hours combined, attacks by ground, air and naval forces had hit 400 militant targets and killed an unspecified number of Hamas fighters.

It said it had killed many squads of fighters in northern Gaza, including in a gunbattle at a mosque used by Islamic Jihad militants as a command post.

Hamas said about 200 Palestinians had been killed since the end of the truce, in addition to more than 15,000 dead in Gaza since the start of the war, according to the region’s health authorities.

Leaflets dropped by the Israeli military on eastern areas of Khan Younis ordered residents of four towns, including Jabalia and Shujaiya, to evacuate further south to Rafah.

“You have been warned,” the leaflets said in Arabic with a map showing ‘safe evacuation zones’.

Residents could be seen taking to the road with belongings heaped up in carts, searching for shelter further west.

In Rafah, several small children streaked with blood were carried out of a house that had been struck.

Mohammed Abu-Elneen, whose father owns the house, said it was sheltering people displaced from elsewhere.

DEIR AL-BALAH, GAZA - DECEMBER 02: (EDITORS NOTE: Image depicts graphic content) Injured people, including children, are brought to Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital for treatment after an Israeli attack at the end of the humanitarian pause between Israel and Hamas in Deir al-Balah, Gaza on December 02, 2023. (Photo by Ali Jadallah/Anadolu via Getty Images)
The injured people, including children, are brought to Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital for treatment after an Israeli attack at the end of the humanitarian pause between Israel and Hamas in Deir al-Balah, Gaza. (Photo: Ali Jadallah/Anadolu/Getty)

The warring sides have blamed each other for the resumption of fighting.

Hamas said Israel and the US were responsible for the collapse in the cessation of military action while a Palestinian official said the breakdown occurred over female Israeli soldiers.

However, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken refuted Hamas’s claim, saying: “It’s important to understand why the pause came to an end – it came to an end because of Hamas.”

The White House has claimed Hamas failed to produce a list of hostages to enable an extension of the pause.

Israel accused Hamas of violating the pause and “firing towards Israeli territory” and refusing to release all the women it held.

The United Nations said the fighting would worsen an extreme humanitarian emergency. “Hell on Earth has returned to Gaza,” said Jens Laerke, from the UN humanitarian office in Geneva.

Aid trucks had been halted at the border crossing between Egypt and Gaza on Friday as the truce ended. But Egyptian security and Red Crescent sources said on Saturday that the first aid trucks since the end of the truce had now entered through the Egyptian side of the Rafah crossing. About 50 vehicles are reported to have been allowed through.

Trucks carrying humanitarian aid that entered the Gaza Strip via the Rafah crossing with Egypt before the end of a 7-day cease fire, wait at the border before being unloaded on December 1, 2023. A temporary truce between Israel and Hamas expired on December 1, with the Israeli army saying combat operations had resumed, accusing Hamas of violating the operational pause. (Photo by SAID KHATIB / AFP) (Photo by SAID KHATIB/AFP via Getty Images)
Trucks carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza wait at the Rafah crossing with Egypt. (Photo: Said Khatib/AFP/ Getty)

Mediators have been scrambling to try and resurrect the truce.

Qatar, which played a central in mediating the week-long cessation of combat along with Egypt, said negotiations were continuing with Israelis and Palestinians to restore it.

An Israeli official in Washington said it was a “very high priority” to get as many hostages released as possible.

“And for that, under agreed terms, Israel is willing to give additional pauses,” the official said.

US Vice President Kamala Harris was due to set out American objectives for when the Israel-Hamas conflict ends, stressing that the Palestinian people in Gaza and the West Bank should ultimately be reunified under one governing entity.

However, Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan has said the chance for peace in Gaza after the pause was lost for now due to what he termed Israel’s “uncompromising approach”.

In a troubling sign the conflict may be spreading to other fronts, Iran’s state media claimed two Revolutionary Guards were killed in an Israeli attack on Syria.

And Israeli forces and Hezbollah militants exchanged fire across the Israel-Lebanon border on Saturday in a second day of hostilities, with Hezbollah claiming one of its fighters had been killed.