Israeli warplanes carried out airstrikes early on Sunday near Gaza’s largest hospital, which is packed with patients and tens of thousands of Palestinians seeking shelter, residents said. Israel has said Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers have a command post under the hospital, without providing much evidence.
The strikes came a day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a “second stage” in Israel’s war on Hamas, three weeks after Hamas launched a brutal incursion into Israel October 7. Tanks and infantry pushed into Gaza over the weekend in what officials described as a widening ground offensive as Israel pounded the territory from air, land and sea.
On Sunday, a statement released by the Health Ministry in Gaza said the total death toll since October 7 in Gaza rose to 8,005 people.
Meanwhile, the Israeli army said they have ‘increased’ troop numbers inside Gaza. “Overnight we increased the entry of IDF forces into the (Gaza) Strip, and they joined the forces already fighting there,” army spokesperson Daniel Hagari said in a televised briefing.
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Earlier, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk warned that there was a potential for thousands more civilians to die if Israel presses a major ground offensive in Gaza. The U.N. rights chief also condemned the Internet and telecommunications blackout that has hit the Palestinian enclave since Friday.
The Health Ministry in the Hamas-run Gaza said Israeli strikes had killed 7,703 people, mainly civilians, including more than 3,500 children.
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Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday that fighting inside the Gaza Strip would be “long and difficult”, as Israeli ground forces operate in the Palestinian territory for more than 24 hours. The Israeli military spokesman said the country is expanding its ground operation in Gaza with infantry and armoured vehicles backed by “massive” strikes from the air and sea.
Israel unleashed its bombing campaign after Hamas gunmen stormed across the Gaza border on October 7, killing 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and seizing more than 220 hostages, according to Israeli officials.
(With inputs from agencies)
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