- Some 12,500 Palestinians are wounded in Gaza Strip: ministry.
- Israeli official predicts US can get “involved” if war escalates.
- Israeli air strike hits school in Hamas-ruled strip, martyring six.
At least 500 Palestinians were martyred in an explosion at a Gaza hospital on Tuesday pushing the overall death toll beyond 3,000 as Palestinian health officials said it happened because of an Israeli air attack.
This was the deadliest bombardment at the Al-Ahli Arab Hospital in central Gaza since Israel started bombing the area in response to an attack by Hamas on southern Israeli communities on October 7.
Moreover, at least six other Palestinians were martyred in an Israeli air strike that hit a school run by the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency.
The violence raged as US President Joe Biden arrived in Israel on Wednesday, beginning a visit to consult on the spiralling Gaza war, a Reuters correspondent on board Air Force One said.
Israel has vowed to annihilate the group after Hamas gunmen crossed the border killing 1,300 people in southern Israel on October 7, the deadliest single day in Israel’s 75-year history.
Since then, Israel has increased the pace of its brutality on parts of densely urbanised Gaza with air strikes, driven around half of its 2.3 million population from their homes, and imposed a total blockade on the enclave, halting food, fuel and medical supplies.
An Israeli air strike killed senior Hamas military commander Ayman Nofal, who was in charge of central Gaza, according to Hamas.
The Palestinian health ministry said Tuesday that around 3,000 people — many of them women and children — had embraced martyrdom and 12,500 wounded in Gaza since October 7, reported Reuters.
It added that 61 Palestinians have also been martyred and 1,250 wounded in clashes in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
The UN Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA said at least six people died in an Israeli air strike that hit a school it ran in Gaza’s Al-Maghazi refugee camp.
“This is outrageous and again it shows a flagrant disregard for the lives of civilians,” UNRWA said in a social media post. “No place is safe in Gaza anymore, not even UN facilities.”
Amid the death and destruction, the humanitarian crisis in the besieged enclave deepened as Israeli troops and tanks massed on the border for an expected ground invasion.
Scores of trucks carrying vital supplies for Gaza headed towards the Rafah crossing in Egypt Tuesday, the only access point to the coastal enclave outside Israeli control, but there was no clear indication that they would be able to enter.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Biden’s planned visit at the end of hours of talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in which he said the Israeli leader had agreed to develop a plan to get humanitarian aid to Gaza civilians.
Blinken said Biden will “hear from Israel what it needs to defend its people”.
He will also hear how Israel will carry out operations in a way that minimises civilian casualties and lets humanitarian aid into Gaza to help civilians “in a way that does not benefit Hamas”, Biden said.
Israel’s national security adviser predicted Tuesday that the US would get “involved” if the situation escalated to the point where Iran and the Lebanese group Hezbollah joined in on behalf of the Palestinian resistance group.
In a briefing, Tzachi Hanegbi noted expressions of support by Biden which included US naval deployments in the Mediterranean and a warning to Hezbollah and Tehran to stay out of the fighting.
“He is making clear to our enemies that if they even imagine taking part in the offensive against the citizens of Israel, there will be American involvement here,” Hanegbi said.
“Israel will not be alone … A US force is here and it is ready,” he added, without elaborating.
Washington is also trying to rally Arab states to help head off a wider regional war after Iran pledged “pre-emptive action” from its allies.
In one sign of the fraught situation facing Biden, Jordan cancelled a planned summit with the US president, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Abbas cancelled plans to meet Biden after the hospital attack.
The Palestinian Authority (PA) accused Israel of genocide and ethnic cleansing in Gaza.
Lifting rubble with bare hands
In Jabalia, in the northern half of Gaza that Israel has ordered evacuated, frantic residents used their bare hands to lift chunks of concrete and metal, crying out when they located bodies from under rubble in a smoking bombing crater. Others ran with stretchers carrying the wounded.
A man emerged from a ruined building holding the limp body of a small boy in his arms.
Residents fleeing the north have crammed into southern areas such as Khan Younis but have found no respite from bombing there.
Amin Hneideq awoke to an explosion in Khan Younis that sent the window crashing down, lacerating his daughter’s head. The bomb had missed his house but destroyed a home nearby, killing a family from the north that had sought shelter there.
“They brought them from the north just to strike them in the south,” said Hneideq, weeping.
UNRWA said only around 14% of Gazans had access to water through a single pipe to Khan Younis that Israel allowed to open for three hours on Monday.
Concerns about dehydration and disease were high as water and sanitation services had collapsed. “People will start dying without water,” UNRWA said.
Even if the Rafah crossing opens to allow aid in, most Gazans will not be let out. Egypt rejects any mass exodus, saying it would amount to an expulsion of Palestinians from their land.
Hamas released a video of a French-Israeli hostage, Maya Schem, one of 199 captives seized during the group’s October 7 raid and taken to Gaza.
France called the video “vile”. Schem’s mother told a press conference she was “begging the world to bring my baby back home”.
Fighting has also intensified across Israel’s northern border with Lebanon.
The Israeli military said on Tuesday it had killed four people who had tried to cross the border to plant explosives.
Security sources in Lebanon said four people had been killed by Israeli shelling near the village of Alma Al-Shaab on the Lebanese side of the frontier.
Iran, which supports both Hamas and Hezbollah, has celebrated the Hamas attacks on Israel but denies being behind them. Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian told state TV: “We cannot be indifferent to the war crimes committed against the people of Gaza.”
Clashes have also worsened in the West Bank, which was already engulfed in its worst unrest for years before the Hamas attacks from Gaza.