Israel intensifies Gaza offensive following deadly airstrike on tent camp

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Israeli forces intensified their offensive in northern and central Gaza on Wednesday, hours after an airstrike on a tent encampment killed more than two dozen people, according to Palestinian officials. This escalation comes as negotiations to end the fighting were set to resume.

Israeli leaflets were dropped on Gaza City, marking “safe routes” for the evacuation of the entire city. Civilians were urged to head south along two designated routes to central Gaza.

The militant group Hamas reported that the renewed Israeli campaign killed more than 60 Palestinians across the enclave on Tuesday, potentially derailing efforts to secure a ceasefire. Talks are scheduled to resume in Doha on Wednesday. The airstrike targeted tents housing displaced families outside a school in Abassan, east of Khan Younis in southern Gaza, killing at least 29 people, mostly women and children, according to Palestinian medical officials.

The Israeli military stated that it was reviewing reports of civilian casualties. The military claimed the strike targeted a Hamas fighter involved in the October 7 raid on Israel that triggered the current conflict.

On Wednesday, Israeli forces expanded their incursion into two Gaza City districts. Residents reported soldiers conducting house-to-house searches, tanks shelling homes, and snipers occupying rooftops of high-rise buildings. Tanks were also stationed inside the headquarters of the U.N. Palestinian refugee agency, UNRWA.

The Israeli military announced that its forces were continuing operations against Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants in Gaza City, claiming that militants had used UNRWA facilities as bases for attacks. “After a defined corridor was opened to facilitate the evacuation of civilians from the area, IDF troops conducted a targeted raid on the structure, eliminated terrorists in close-quarters combat, and located large amounts of weapons in the area,” the military said.

The Palestinian Red Crescent reported receiving numerous desperate calls from residents trapped in their homes, but their teams were unable to reach them due to the intensity of the bombing. “The information coming from Gaza City shows residents are living through tragic conditions. [Israeli] occupation forces continue to hit residential districts and displace people from their homes and refuge shelters,” the organization said in a statement.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad fighters reportedly engaged Israeli forces with anti-tank rockets and mortar bombs, and occasionally in close-range combat.

In the central Gaza camp of Al-Nuseirat, medics reported six Palestinians, including children, were killed in an airstrike on a house early on Wednesday. Another airstrike in Khan Younis killed two people and wounded several others.

Health officials in the Hamas-run territory stated that more than 38,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since the war began. The conflict erupted when militants led by Hamas infiltrated southern Israel on October 7, killing 1,200 people and taking around 250 hostages back to Gaza, according to Israeli figures.