Hundreds of Palestinians raced to Deir el-Balah hospital on Sunday to identify bodies after Israel increased its air raids on Gaza, as the territory’s Hamas rulers announced 4,651 people have been killed since the conflict began.
Authorities claimed Deir el-Balah in central Gaza had been hit the worst by one of the most violent nights of bombing since Israel began its bombardment in response to Hamas cross-border attacks on October 7.
According to the health ministry’s toll, more than 260 individuals perished in 24 hours, with 1,873 of those murdered in the previous two weeks being children.
After Hamas terrorists poured over the border on October 7, murdering at least 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and capturing more than 200, Israel began shelling the tiny enclave.
Bodies were strewn across the Deir el-Balah hospital morgue, including that of Mohammad Judeh and his three-year-old daughter Misk, who were placed on the same table with their faces exposed.
Wael Wafi, Judeh’s cousin, said the girl was clutching her father when their remains were recovered from the rubble.
“All the Judeh family, including my aunt, were killed in the bombardment,” said Wafi.
“Two buildings were destroyed and came down on them.”
Some family members had taken refuge in the building after escaping shelling in northern Gaza, he added.
“My cousin was sleeping in his house with his daughter in his arms. He was a man with no record, nothing to do with the resistance,” said Wafi.
Death in the south
Another woman in the morgue nearly collapsed after lifting the sheets lying over bodies to discover her daughter and other members of her family.
Their names — Layan, Hani and Joane — were written on their legs. A relative later led the distraught woman away.
In the southern town of Khan Yunis, one strike on the Rio cafe killed 13 people.
The cafe was on the ground floor of a building housing people who had fled Israel’s bombardment of northern Gaza.
Israel has issued daily warnings for people to leave the north.
“I heard an explosion and then I saw dust, flames and debris flying. One minute later they struck again,” said Naji Shurrab, who lives opposite the cafe.
‘Move south for safety’
Israel announced on Saturday that it was speeding up its attacks and has gathered tens of thousands of troops surrounding Gaza in preparation for a land invasion, which was widely predicted.
It claims to have assassinated numerous politicians and military commanders of the Palestinian Islamist organization that has governed Gaza since 2007.
“From today, we are increasing the strikes and minimising the danger,” an Israeli military spokesman said late Saturday. “We will increase the attacks and therefore I call on Gaza City residents to continue moving south for their safety.”
Israel has frequently warned Gaza’s 1.1 million northern residents to go south before any ground operation.
As attacks wreaked havoc on the strip, the Hamas authorities lamented a shortage of relief, despite the arrival of 37 trucks on Saturday and Sunday. According to the report, there are now 1.4 million displaced persons within the enclave.
“The aid that arrived in Gaza is not enough for one day. We call on the international community to pressure the Israeli government to bring in thousands of trucks,” Hamas said in a statement.