Israel bombarded Gaza early Friday, hitting areas in the south where Palestinians had been told to seek safety, and it began evacuating a sizable Israeli town in the north near the Lebanese border, the latest sign of a potential ground invasion of Gaza that could trigger regional turmoil.
Palestinians in Gaza reported heavy airstrikes in Khan Younis in the south, and ambulances carrying men, women and children streamed into the town’s Nasser Hospital, Gaza’s second largest, which is already overflowing with patients and people seeking shelter. The Israeli military said it had struck more than 100 targets across Gaza linked to the territory’s Hamas rulers, including a tunnel and arms depots.
On Thursday, Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant ordered ground troops to prepare to see Gaza “from the inside,” hinting at a ground offensive aimed at crushing Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers nearly two weeks after their bloody incursion into Israel. Officials have given no timetable for such an operation.
Over a million people have been displaced in Gaza, with many heeding Israel’s orders to evacuate the northern part of the sealed-off coastal enclave.
Gaza’s overwhelmed hospitals are rationing their dwindling medical supplies and fuel for generators, as authorities worked out logistics for a desperately needed aid delivery from Egypt that has yet to enter. Doctors in darkened wards across Gaza performed surgeries by the light of mobile phones and used vinegar to treat infected wounds.
The deal to get aid into Gaza through Rafah, the territory’s only crossing not controlled by Israel, remained fragile. Israel said the supplies could only go to civilians and that it would “thwart” any diversions by Hamas. More than 200 trucks and some 3,000 tons of aid were positioned at or near Rafah.