Israeli airstrikes also hit the vicinity of the Al Quds hospital in Gaza City where doctors say up to 14,000 displaced people are sheltering, according to the director of the hospital. The strikes that began Wednesday evening continued into Thursday morning and were “getting closer to the hospital,” Dr Bashar Mourad told CNN by phone.
More civilians are expected to leave Gaza on Thursday, a day after injured Palestinians and hundreds of foreign nationals crossed from Gaza into Egypt via the Rafah border crossing in the first sanctioned exodus in weeks.
A Palestinian official at the Rafah crossing, Wael Abu Umar, told CNN 400 foreign nationals were due to leave, without specifying nationalities, as well as 60 other injured people. CNN spoke to six Americans who crossed the border on Thursday.
Egypt is preparing to facilitate the evacuation of nearly 7,000 foreign citizens in Gaza from more than 60 countries via the Rafah Crossing, the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.
The massive second strike on Jabalya created further catastrophic damage, destroying several buildings in the Falluja neighborhood of the camp, with video from the site showing a deep crater and people digging through the rubble searching for bodies.
The Civil Defense in Hamas-run Gaza described the strike as a “second massacre.” The airstrike killed at least 80 people and injured hundreds more, according to Dr. Atef Al Kahlout, the director of Gaza’s Indonesian hospital. He told CNN more bodies were being dug out of the rubble, and the majority of casualties were women and children.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said the Wednesday attack targeted a Hamas command and control complex and “eliminated” Hamas terrorists “based on precise intelligence.”
“Hamas deliberately builds its terror infrastructure under, around and within civilian buildings, intentionally endangering Gazan civilians,” the IDF added in a statement.
The airstrike came a day after Israeli jets hit the camp in an area near Falluja on Tuesday, killing or injuring hundreds of people according to medics and triggering fresh outcry over spiraling civilian casualties in Gaza.
Survivors and eyewitnesses spoke of apocalyptic scenes in the aftermath of Tuesday’s strike, with one eyewitness saying “It felt like the end of the world.”
“Children were carrying other injured children and running, with grey dust filling the air. Bodies were hanging on the rubble, many of them unrecognizable. Some were bleeding and others were burnt,” Mohammad Al Aswad told CNN by phone.
The IDF said the first strike killed several Hamas members, including Ibrahim Biari, whom it described as one of the Hamas commanders responsible for the October 7 attack on Israel, in which more than 1,400 people were killed and hundreds taken hostage. Hamas, however, strongly denied the presence of one of its leaders in the refugee camp.
The United Nations Human Rights Office said on social media that the attacks on Jabalya, which is Gaza’s largest refugee camp, “could amount to war crimes” given “the high number of civilian casualties and the scale of destruction.”
Israel’s weeks long bombardment of Gaza has killed at least 8,700 people, according to figures released by the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Ramallah, drawn from sources in the Hamas-controlled enclave. That’s an average of more than 300 people dying every day, according to CNN’s analysis. Women, children and the elderly make up more than 70% of those killed, the ministry said on Monday.
The devastation wrought by the strikes, which are part of Israel’s expanded offensive in Gaza, appeared to be a tipping point in the war for a number of countries who responded with diplomatic measures in condemnation of Israel’s actions in Gaza and the resulting humanitarian crisis.
Jordan on Wednesday became the latest country to recall its ambassador to Israel, following Chile and Colombia, due to the strikes on Gaza. Bolivia on Tuesday cut its diplomatic relations with Israel citing “crimes against humanity committed against the Palestinian people.”
The strikes continue amid increasingly urgent calls for a ceasefire by the UN and aid organizations, and despite a non-binding UN General Assembly resolution backed by over 100 countries calling for a “sustained humanitarian truce.”
New strikes, a hospital goes dark
A barrage of new explosions was seen over Gaza City – the largest urban center in the enclave – in the early hours of Thursday, a live camera feed from AFP showed.
IDF commander Brigadier General Itzik Cohen said Wednesday that the Israeli military is “at the gates of Gaza City.” And IDF spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari claimed Israeli forces had breached Hamas’ defensive frontline in northern Gaza and is expanding its fighting into the strip.
On Thursday, the IDF announced the death of a soldier who was killed as part of the country’s incursion into Gaza, bringing the total number of Israeli soldiers killed as part of the Gaza operation to 18.
The scale of the tragedy for the more than 2 million people, half of them children, trapped inside the war-torn enclave is “unprecedented,” the head of the United Nations’ Palestinian refugee agency said following a brief trip to Gaza Wednesday.
“Everyone was just asking for water and food. Instead of being at school, learning, children were asking for a sip of water and a piece of bread. It was heart wrenching. Above all, people were asking for a ceasefire. They want this tragedy to end,” said Philippe Lazzarini, commissioner general of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).
Nearly half of all hospitals in Gaza are out of service due to bombardments and fuel shortages, including the leading cancer hospital in the strip, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Ramallah. It warned Gaza’s largest hospital Al Shifa would be forced to stop operating in less than a day.
Meanwhile, the main generator for the Gaza Indonesian Hospital – one of the few remaining hospitals serving the northern part of the coastal enclave – went out of service Wednesday night, Dr. Atef Al Kahlout, the head of the hospital, told CNN Thursday, deepening fears for patients in intensive care. The hospital is considered a backbone in providing health services in northern Gaza and the outage has affected ventilation systems in the operating rooms, the hospital’s only oxygen station, and the hospital morgue refrigerators, Al Kahlout said.
On Wednesday, injured Palestinians and hundreds of foreign nationals started crossing from Gaza into Egypt through the Rafah border crossing.
They included more than 360 foreign passport holders, many of them Palestinian dual nationals, with dozens making their way to Cairo where some will catch flights back to their home countries, an Egyptian government official told CNN.
Among those who crossed into Egypt Wednesday was 71-year-old Seattle resident Ramona Okumura, an American medical volunteer who was working with child amputees in Gaza. Her niece Leah Okumura told CNN Ramona was now resting at a hotel.
Forty-five injured Palestinians are also currently getting treatment in three hospitals across Egypt, an Egyptian government official told CNN. They are part of a list of 81 severely injured people expected to enter Egypt for treatment.
Heading into Gaza through the Rafah crossing on Wednesday were 55 humanitarian aid trucks from the Egyptian Red Crescent containing food, water, medicines and medical supplies. A total of 272 aid trucks have crossed into Gaza so far – a drop in the ocean of the assistance needed – but no fuel has been allowed to enter, it said.