Israeli airstrikes pound Central, Southern Gaza

Palestinians flee the Israeli ground offensive in Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, Dec 27, 2023. [AP Photo]

Israeli forces carried out fresh strikes Wednesday, mainly across the central and southern parts of the Gaza Strip, while it continued ground operations and airstrikes in Gaza City in the north.

The Gaza Health Ministry reported dozens of deaths in Khan Younis in the south and at the refugee camps of Al Nuseirat and Al Maghazi in central Gaza. As night fell, residents of Al-Bureij and Al-Maghazi reported tank fire intensifying to the east. Bureij came under heavy fire Tuesday night.

"It was a night of hell. We haven’t seen such bombing since the start of the war," said Rami Abu Mosab, speaking to The Associated Press from Bureij, where he has sheltered since fleeing his home in northern Gaza.

After moving south to the Khan Younis area, Israeli officials this week had signaled a push into parts of central Gaza, including areas home to multiple refugee camps. United Nations staff members reported seeing tens of thousands fleeing the strikes on Khan Younis, many headed north to Deir al-Balah or south to Rafah on the southern edge of Gaza.

Several hundred thousand people have arrived in Deir al-Balah, a city of 75,000. With U.N. shelters full, they set up tents on the streets and sidewalks around the main hospital.

The WHO said its teams have undertaken "high-risk missions to deliver supplies, with partners, to hospitals in northern and southern Gaza.

"Today I repeat my call on the international community to take urgent steps to alleviate the grave peril facing the population of Gaza and jeopardizing the ability of humanitarian workers to help people with terrible injuries, acute hunger, and at severe risk of disease," said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

As Israel remains focused on its campaign to eliminate Hamas, designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. and others, French President Emmanual Macron called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, urging him to work toward a sustainable cease-fire with the help of regional and international partners.

On October 7, Hamas militants poured over the border with Israel and attacked southern Israeli communities, killing about 1,200 people, according to Israel. Hamas also seized around 240 hostages, of whom 129 remain in Gaza.

In response, Israel vowed to crush Hamas and launched an air, land and sea attack on Gaza. The Israeli offensive has left vast parts of Gaza in ruins and killed nearly 21,000 Palestinians, according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry.

Meanwhile, fighting continued on Israel's northern border with Lebanon where Hezbollah fired more rockets and weaponized drones than it has in any previous day, security sources said.

In response, Israeli warplanes targeted Hezbollah military sites, the military said.

"If the world and the Lebanese government don't act in order to prevent the firing on Israel's northern residents, and to distance Hezbollah from the border, the IDF will do it," Cabinet minister Benny Gantz told a press conference, referring to the Israel Defense Forces.

The White House on Wednesday welcomed the appointment this week of Sigrid Kaag as United Nations senior humanitarian and reconstruction coordinator for Gaza.

"We welcome Ms. Kaag’s leadership and look forward to working together closely to increase the flow of aid into Gaza and ensure safety and security for the aid delivery and the humanitarian staff providing the life-saving support to those in need," said a statement from national security adviser Jake Sullivan.