Dozens killed in Israeli airstrikes on Gaza City

<span>People walk through the rubble of destroyed buildings in al-Shati in Gaza City on Saturday. </span><span>Photograph: Omar Al-Qattaa/AFP/Getty Images</span>
People walk through the rubble of destroyed buildings in al-Shati in Gaza City on Saturday. Photograph: Omar Al-Qattaa/AFP/Getty Images

Dozens of Palestinians have been killed in Israeli airstrikes on two densely populated locations in Gaza City.

According to initial reports in the Israeli media, the bombings were aimed at assassinating a very senior Hamas commander.

Amid initial reports of tens of casualties, including some still buried under the rubble, the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement it had struck Hamas “military infrastructure sites”.

The strikes hit the al-Shati neighbourhood, known as Beach camp, and the al-Tuffah district, which were both struck by significant explosions, killing 38 people according to Ismail Al-Thawabta, the director of the Hamas-run government media office. Earlier reports had put the death toll at 42.

Emergency services had earlier described large numbers of casualties, many of whom were taken to Al-Ahli hospital.

Footage shared by social media users showed a scene of substantial destruction in al-Shati, streets thick with dust and smoke and a rising column of smoke.

It said more details would be released soon.

Hamas did not comment on the Israeli claim to have hit its military infrastructure. It said the attacks targeted the civilian population and vowed in a statement that “the occupation and its Nazi leaders will pay the price for their violations against our people”.

Footage obtained by Reuters showed dozens of Palestinians rushing out to search for victims amid the destroyed houses. The footage showed wrecked homes, blasted walls, and debris and dust filling the street in al-Shati refugee camp.

Israel’s ground and air campaign in Gaza was triggered when Hamas-led militants stormed into southern Israel on 7 October, killing about 1,200 people and seizing more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

The offensive has left Gaza in ruins, killed more than 37,400 people, of whom 101 were killed in the past 24 hours, according to Palestinian health authorities, and left nearly the entire population homeless and destitute.

More than eight months into the war, Israel’s advance is now focused on the two last areas its forces had yet to seize: Rafah on Gaza’s southern edge and the area surrounding Deir al-Balah in the centre.

Related: At least 17 killed in Gaza refugee camps after latest Israeli strikes, say medics

Residents said Israeli tanks deepened their incursion into western and northern Rafah areas in recent days. On Saturday, Israeli forces bombed several areas from air and the ground, forcing many families living in areas described as humanitarian-designated zones to leave northwards.

The Israeli military said forces continued “precise, intelligence-based” targeted operations in Rafah, killing many Palestinian gunmen and dismantling military infrastructure.

On Friday, the Gaza health ministry said at least 25 Palestinians had been killed in Mawasi in western Rafah and 50 wounded. Palestinians said a tank shell hit a tent housing displaced families.

The Israeli military said the incident was under review. “An initial inquiry conducted suggests that there is no indication that a strike was carried out by the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) in the Humanitarian Area in Al-Mawasi,” it said.

Agencies contributed to this report