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Palestinian death toll in Gaza rises to 27,238

Published : 03 Feb 2024 10:25 PM

Israeli airstrikes killed 18 Palestinians in Rafah and Deir Al-Balah, Gaza health officials said on Saturday, in the last two Gaza Strip cities where troops had not been deployed, adding to residents' fears Israel would expand its ground operation, reports agencies.

Health officials said an Israeli airstrike on a house in Rafah, where more than half of Gaza's 2.3 million residents are now homeless, killed 14 people including women and children.

The Israeli military did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Israel's Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said forces would now press on to Rafah on Gaza's southern edge.

Tens of thousands have arrived in Rafah in recent days, carrying belongings in their arms and pulling children on carts, since Israeli forces last week launched one of their biggest assaults of the war to capture nearby Khan Younis, the main southern city.

In the central Gaza Strip city of Deir Al-Balah, the second major concentration of displaced people, medics said four people were killed in an airstrike on a house earlier on Saturday.

In nearby Khan Younis, residents said the army blew up a residential district near the city center.

The Gaza health ministry said heavy Israeli bombardment around the city's two main hospitals continued to undermine healthcare systems and endanger the lives of staff, patients, and displaced people who have taken shelter there.

On Friday, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society said four people were killed by Israeli gunfire directed against the Al-Amal Hospital.

In Gaza City, residents and militants said fighting continued against Israeli forces. Health officials said two people were killed by sniper fire. Israeli forces carried out arrests in the southern suburb of Tel Al-Hawa.

Israel launched a war on Hamas, the militant group which rules the Gaza Strip, after an October onslaught on southern Israel by Hamas militants who killed 1,200 people and took 253 people hostage into Gaza, more than 100 of whom are still captive, according to Israeli tallies.

Israeli officials say they aim to eliminate Hamas, which has vowed to repeat its October attacks, and repatriate the hostages, many of whom are women and children.

Gaza health authorities, who do not differentiate between militants and civilians in their tallies, said on Saturday that at least 27,238 Palestinians have been killed and 66,452 others injured in Israeli strikes on Gaza since October 7, adding that strikes killed at least 107 Palestinians and injured 165 over the past 24 hours.

The Israeli military said its forces killed dozens of Palestinian gunmen in northern Gaza.

"During targeted raids in the northern and central Gaza Strip over the last day, IDF troops killed dozens of terrorists and destroyed numerous anti-tank missile launchers," the military said.

Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and other smaller militant groups said in a separate statement their fighters engaged in fierce battles with the army in the north and the south of the Gaza Strip.

"The more the occupation forces remain on the ground, the more we will get to them," one Palestinian militant official said.

"A martyr falls, another rises and takes the rifle, and we are ready to fight for many more months," he told Reuters.

Asked about Israel saying it killed 10,000 militants, he said, "This is for public consumption in the occupation entity. It is fiction."