Gaza health officials say 24 killed in Israeli strikes

Cyprus, Lebanon, Palestinian territories and Israel (Valentina BRESCHI)
Cyprus, Lebanon, Palestinian territories and Israel (Valentina BRESCHI)

Health officials in Gaza said Israeli air strikes on Saturday killed at least 24 people in the territory's north, a day after the International Committee of the Red Cross said 22 people were killed in shelling that damaged its office.

The Gaza City strikes added to at least 120 deaths over the previous 48 hours which the health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza reported earlier Saturday.

Dr Mahmud Aliwa of Al-Ahli hospital in Gaza City said his facility received 24 bodies after the strikes, which left smoke rising over the city.

Gaza civil defence agency spokesman Mahmud Basal told AFP that at least 20 were killed in a strike on a house in Al-Tuffah neighbourhood, while a strike in Al-Shati refugee camp claimed the lives of four others.

Against a grey backdrop of destruction, men used a donkey cart to remove some of the dead in Al-Tuffah.

Earlier on Saturday, Israel's military said its fighter jets were striking "two Hamas military infrastructure sites in the area of Gaza City".

The European Union's foreign affairs chief, Josep Borrell, on Saturday called for a probe into the shelling that damaged the ICRC office.

"An independent investigation is needed and those responsible must be held accountable," Borrell wrote on social media platform X.

- 'Dangerously close' -

Late Friday the ICRC said 22 dead and 45 wounded were taken to a Red Cross field hospital after shelling with "heavy calibre projectiles" near its southern Gaza office.

"Firing so dangerously close to humanitarian structures puts the lives of civilians and humanitarians at risk," the ICRC said on X.

Gaza's health ministry blamed the shelling on Israel, saying 25 were killed and 50 wounded in the coastal Al-Mawasi area, where thousands of displaced Palestinians have been sheltering in tents.

An Israel military statement on Saturday said an initial inquiry found "there was no direct attack carried out by the IDF against a Red Cross facility", but the incident was still under review and "findings will be presented to our international partners".

On Saturday witnesses reported gun battles in Gaza City between militants and Israeli forces backed by helicopter fire.

The deadliest-ever Gaza war began with an unprecedented October 7 attack by Hamas militants on southern Israel. That attack resulted in the deaths of 1,194 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.

The militants also seized hostages, 116 of whom remain in Gaza although the army says 41 are dead.

Israel's retaliatory offensive has killed at least 37,551 people, also mostly civilians, Gaza's health ministry said on Saturday.

Exchanges of fire across the Lebanese border between Israel and the powerful Iran-backed militant group Hezbollah have also escalated, raising fears of wider war.

On Saturday a security source said a leader of the Lebanese Islamist group Jamaa Islamiya, a Hamas ally, was killed in an Israeli strike on a vehicle in eastern Lebanon.

- 'Precise strike' -

Israel's military said an aircraft carried out a "precise strike" in Lebanon's Bekaa area "to eliminate the terrorist" Ayman Ghotmeh, who they said supplied weapons to Hamas and Jamaa Islamiya in Lebanon.

In southern Lebanon, Israeli warplanes struck Hezbollah targets, the military said.

Experts are divided on the prospect of a wider war, almost nine months into Israel's campaign to eradicate Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the cross-border hostilities must not turn Lebanon into "another Gaza".

Citing "bellicose rhetoric" on both sides, he warned: "One rash move –- one miscalculation -- could trigger a catastrophe that goes far beyond the border, and frankly, beyond imagination."

Violence has also soared in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. The Israeli military said on Saturday that an Israeli civilian died after being shot near Qalqilya city.

Months of negotiations towards a truce and hostage release have failed to make headway, but mediator Qatar on Friday said it was still working to "bridge the gap" between Israel and Hamas.

The war has destroyed much of Gaza's infrastructure and left residents short of food, fuel and other essentials.

On June 16 the army announced a daily "tactical pause of military activity" in a southern Gaza corridor from the Kerem Shalom crossing point to facilitate aid deliveries.

But with civil order breaking down in Gaza, the UN says it has been unable to pick up any supplies from Kerem Shalom since Tuesday.

Another complication is that "you often have to cross battlefields", said William Schomburg, ICRC's chief in Rafah, near Egypt.

Israel says it has let supplies in and called on agencies to step up deliveries.

For Umm Mohammad Zamlat, 66, displaced to Khan Yunis in southern Gaza, the result is painfully simple: "We don't see any aid."