Israeli forces continued their air and ground bombardment of the southern Gaza Strip, resulting in dozens of Palestinian casualties, despite calls from the United States and the United Nations to prioritize civilian protection.
The United States, Israel’s closest ally, has voiced concern over the civilian casualties in the southern offensive, urging Israel to avoid a repetition of the significant civilian toll witnessed in the northern region, as reported by Reuters.
Notably, reports from residents and journalists on the ground highlight that intense Israeli airstrikes in the south have struck areas previously designated as shelter zones by Israel.
Concurrently, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called on Israel to take measures to improve the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza and ensure the protection of civilians from additional suffering.
“The Secretary-General is extremely alarmed by the resumption of hostilities between Israel and Hamas… For people ordered to evacuate, there is nowhere safe to go and very little to survive on,” U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said.
In November, Israel captured Gaza’s northern half, and since the recent truce collapse, they’ve advanced into the southern half.
The armed wing of Hamas ally Islamic Jihad reported intense clashes with Israeli forces north and east of Khan Younis, Gaza’s primary southern city.
Israeli tanks crossed the border into Gaza, severing the main north-south route. The Israeli military deemed the central road out of Khan Younis to the north a battlefield, closing it.
“We have said it repeatedly. We are repeating it. No place is safe in Gaza, whether in the south, or the southwest, whether in Rafah or any unilaterally so-called ‘safe zone’,” Philippe Lazzarini, who heads the UN agency for Palestinian refugees in Gaza (UNRWA).
Amid eight weeks of war, approximately 80% of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents have evacuated their homes. Israel recently ordered Palestinians in Khan Younis to move towards Rafah along the Mediterranean coast, prompting a sombre exodus.
Israel launched its assault in response to a cross-border attack by Hamas gunmen on October 7, which resulted in the death of 1,200 people and the seizure of 240 hostages, marking the deadliest single day in Israel’s 75-year history.