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

<span>People search the rubble of a home destroyed in overnight Israeli strikes at Bureij refugee camp.</span><span>Photograph: Bashar Taleb/AFP/Getty Images</span>
People search the rubble of a home destroyed in overnight Israeli strikes at Bureij refugee camp.Photograph: Bashar Taleb/AFP/Getty Images

A series of Israeli airstrikes on Tuesday have resulted in the deaths of at least 17 Palestinians in two of the Gaza Strip’s historic refugee camps, as tanks advanced further into the southern city of Rafah, according to reports from residents and medics.

Nuseirat and Bureij are home to families and descendants of people who fled to Gaza in the 1948 war around the creation of Israel.

Civilians in Rafah described intense bombardments by tanks and planes across various areas in the city, which sheltered more than 1 million people before May. Most of the population has fled northwards since the Israeli forces’ incursion into the city.

“Rafah is being bombed without any intervention from the world. The occupation [Israel] is acting freely here,” a Rafah resident and father of six told Reuters via a chat app.

According to media reports, Israeli tanks were operating inside the Tel al-Sultan, al-Izba, and Zurub areas in Rafah’s west, as well as Shaboura at the heart of the city. They also continued to occupy the eastern neighbourhoods and outskirts as well as the border with Egypt and the vital Rafah border crossing.

The resident said: “There are Israeli forces in most areas. There is heavy resistance too and they are making them pay dearly but the occupation is not ethical and they are destroying the city and the refugee camp.”

Footage of the aftermath of the Israeli strikes in Deir al-Balah shows Palestinians sifting through the wreckage of homes in search of bodies, clearing debris from damaged apartment buildings, and mourning the loss of their loved ones.

Although an Israeli military statement did not comment directly on the 17 deaths, it said its forces continued to operate against militant factions in central Gaza areas, saying it was continuing “precise, intelligence-based activity” in Rafah, killing many Palestinian gunmen over the past day in close-range combat and seizing weapons. The air force had struck dozens of targets across the Gaza Strip in the past day, it added.

“Every more hour of delay, Israel kills more people. We want a ceasefire now,” said Khalil, 45, a teacher from Gaza, now displaced with his family in Deir al-Balah. “Enough of our blood. I say it to Israel, America and our leaders too. The war must stop,” he told Reuters via a chat app.

The war began on 7 October when Hamas attacked southern Israel, killing about 1,200 people. More than 37,372 Palestinians had been killed and 85,452 had been wounded during Israel’s military offensive, the Gaza health ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.

On Monday the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, dismantled his war cabinet. There are questions about how the decision will affect efforts to secure a ceasefire.

Critics of Netanyahu allege that he is stalling to avoid an inquiry into his government’s shortcomings on 7 October and to avert the possibility of new elections at a time when his popularity is dwindling.

“It means that he will make all the decisions himself, or with people that he trusts who don’t challenge him,” said Gideon Rahat, the chair of the political science department at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a senior fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute, a Jerusalem-based thinktank. “And his interest is in having a slow-attrition war,” he told Associated Press.

Netanyahu reportedly told ministers that the war cabinet was no longer needed after Benny Gantz’s resignation a week earlier. Gantz, a former army chief and defence minister and one of the members of the war cabinet, quit the coalition along with Gadi Eisenkot, one of the three observers in the body.

Netanyahu is now expected to hold consultations about the Gaza war with a small group of ministers, including Yoav Gallant and the strategic affairs minister, Ron Dermer, who had been in the war cabinet.

The dissolution of the war cabinet is unlikely to have any meaningful impact on the conflict – decision-making will move back to the security cabinet – but the political ramifications may be more significant.

The move appears to be a deliberate snub to Netanyahu’s far-right allies in the coalition, including the national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, who had been angling for a seat in the war cabinet since Gantz’s departure, after complaining he had been sidelined for key decisions.

Reports in the Hebrew-language media suggested Netanyahu intends to make key decisions in meetings with his own advisers, excluding Ben-Gvir, before presenting them to the security cabinet.

Agencies contributed to this report