Strike on food aid queue kills 20 Palestinians, says Gaza health authority

Palestinian medics said Israeli tanks had cut off and were shelling targets around the city’s two main still-functioning hospitals, Nasser and Al-Amal, trapping medical teams, patients and displaced people huddled inside or nearby.

Israel says Hamas militants use hospital premises as cover for bases, something the Islamist group and medical staff deny.

Palestinians displaced by the Israel air and ground offensive on the Gaza Strip sit next to the border fence with Egypt in Rafah.Credit: AP

On Thursday, tens of thousands of homeless people sheltering in a compound in Khan Younis prepared to flee to Rafah, 15 km away, after Israeli tank forces nearby ordered all civilians inside to leave, UN officials said. More than 30,000 people were packed inside the compound, they added.

There was no immediate comment from the Israeli military.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said less than 20 per cent of the narrow enclave – around 60 square km – now harboured over 1.5 million homeless people in the south, where the escalation of fighting “threatens their survival”.

Some 25,900 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli strikes in Gaza, Palestinian health officials say, with large tracts of the heavily built-up enclave flattened by bombing.

Genocide case

Israel unleashed its war to eradicate Hamas after militants stormed through the border fence in a shock incursion into nearby Israeli towns and bases on October 7, killing 1200 people and seizing around 240 hostages, according to Israeli figures.

The Israeli military has said it has killed more than 9000 Gaza militants and lost 220 soldiers in the 3-1/2-month-old war. Hamas has dismissed Israel’s figures on militant deaths.

Ahead of a ruling by UN judges on Friday on South Africa’s request for an immediate halt to Israel’s military operation in Gaza, which it has accused of state-led genocide, Hamas said it would abide by any ruling for a ceasefire if Israel reciprocates.

Hamas would also release the Israeli hostages in Gaza if Israel releases all Palestinians prisoners, senior Hamas official Osama Hamdan said at a news conference in Beirut.

Israel has asked the International Court of Justice in The Hague to reject the case outright. An Israeli government spokesperson on Thursday said they expect the UN’ s top court to “throw out these spurious and specious charges”.

Urgent international appeals for a ceasefire to spare civilians who have borne the brunt of casualties have fallen on deaf ears with Israel vowing not to relent until Hamas has been eradicated and all hostages freed.

Hamas says any deal must hinge on Israel ending its offensive and siege and withdrawing from the Gaza Strip.

Mediated talks on a month-long truce that could see hostages freed in swaps for Palestinian prisoners in Israel have resumed, but have snagged on the two sides’ differences over how to bring an end to the war, sources told Reuters.

The directors of Israel’s Mossad intelligence service and the US Central Intelligence Agency will meet Qatar’s prime minister in Europe this weekend to discuss a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and release of hostages, an official briefed on the meeting told Reuters on Thursday.

Gaza’s conflict threatens to destabilise the Middle East, stoking hostilities ranging from the Israeli-occupied West Bank to the Israel-Lebanon border region, Syria, Iraq and Red Sea shipping lanes crucial to international trade.


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