Soldiers struck fighters, militant infrastructure and anti-tank missile launching positions
Israeli troops and tanks launched a brief ground raid into northern Gaza overnight into Thursday, the military said, striking several militant targets in order to "prepare the battlefield" ahead of a widely expected ground invasion after more than two weeks of devastating air raids.
The raid came after the UN warned it is on the verge of running out of fuel in the Gaza Strip, forcing it to sharply curtail relief efforts in the territory, which has also been under a complete siege since Hamas militants stormed into southern Israel Oct. 7, killing more than 1,400 people and taking more than 200 hostages back to Gaza.
Hospitals in Gaza struggled to treat masses of wounded with dwindling resources. Health officials said the death toll was soaring as Israeli jets pounded Gaza. Workers pulled dead and wounded civilians, including many children, out of landscapes of rubble in cities across the territory.
Gaza's Health Ministry, which is controlled by Hamas, said Wednesday that more than 750 people were killed over the past 24 hours, higher than the 704 killed the previous day. The Associated Press could not independently verify the death toll, and the ministry does not distinguish between civilians and combatants.
The Israeli military, which accuses Hamas of operating among civilians, said its strikes killed militants and destroyed military targets. Gaza militants have fired unrelenting rocket barrages into Israel since the conflict started.
During the overnight raid, the military said soldiers struck fighters, militant infrastructure and anti-tank missile launching positions. There were no immediate reports of casualties on either aide.
Video of the overnight action issued by the Israeli military showed armoured vehicles proceeding through a sandy border zone. A bulldozer is seen levelling part of a raised bank, tanks fire shells, and explosions are seen near or amid a row of damaged buildings.
Meanwhile, an airstrike hit a residential building in the southern town of Khan Younis early Thursday. Ambulances streamed into the nearby Nasser Hospital, but there was no official word on casualties. Family members said the building had housed 75 people, including 25 displaced relatives.
The rising death tolls in Gaza are unprecedented in the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Even greater loss of life could come if Israel launches an expected ground offensive aimed at crushing Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2007 and survived four previous wars with Israel.
The Gaza Health Ministry says more than 6,500 Palestinians have been killed in the war. That figure includes the disputed toll from an explosion at a hospital last week.
The fighting has killed more than 1,400 people in Israel, mostly civilians slain during the initial Hamas attack, according to the Israeli government. Hamas also holds some 222 hostages in Gaza.
The warning by the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, over depleting fuel supplies raised alarm that the humanitarian crisis could quickly worsen.
Gaza's population has also been running out of food, water and medicine. About 1.4 million of Gaza's 2.3 million residents have fled their homes, with nearly half of them crowded into UN shelters.
Rescues from rubble in Gaza as Israel warns of ground incursion
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Featured VideoWARNING: This story contains distressing details | In the aftermath of an Israeli airstrike in Khan Yunis, Gaza, rescuers use rudimentary tools to dig entire families from the rubble. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issues another warning to the people of Gaza to evacuate to the south, saying a ground incursion is being prepared.
In recent days, Israel let a small number of trucks with aid enter from Egypt but barred deliveries of fuel — needed to power generators — saying it believes Hamas will take it.
An official with the International Committee of the Red Cross said it hopes to bring in nearly a half dozen trucks filled with vital medical supplies.
"This is a small amount of what is required, a drop in the ocean if you will, given the severity of the consequences of the violence in the last two and a half weeks," said William Schomburg, head of the sub-delegation in Gaza.
"Today, we are looking at eight to 10 trucks coming in. We have more that are lined up," he said. "We are trying to establish a pipeline."
UNRWA has been sharing its own fuel supplies so that trucks can distribute aid, bakeries can feed people in shelters, water can be desalinated, and hospitals can keep incubators, life support machines and other vital equipment working.
More than half of Gaza's primary health care facilities and roughly a third of its hospitals have stopped functioning, the World Health Organization said.
At Gaza City's Al-Shifa Hospital, the lack of medicine and clean water have led to "alarming" infection rates, the group Doctors Without Borders said. Amputations are often required to prevent infection from spreading in the wounded, it said.
One surgeon with the group described amputating half the foot of a nine-year-old boy with only "slight sedation" on a hallway floor as his mother and sister watched.
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