Israel Storms Gaza City Neighborhood, Orders Palestinians to Go South

REUTERS/Doaa Rouqa
Mourners react during the funeral of Palestinians killed in Israeli strikes, amid the Israel-Hamas conflict, in Deir Al-Balah, in central Gaza Strip June 28, 2024.

CAIRO, June 27 (Reuters) – Israel stormed a neighborhood in Gaza City on Thursday, ordering Palestinians to move south as tanks rolled in and bombing the southern city of Rafah in what it says are the final stages of an operation against Hamas militants there.

Residents of the Shejaia neighborhood in Gaza City said they were surprised by the sound of tanks approaching and firing in the early afternoon, with drones also attacking after overnight bombing of the city, which Israel had combed early in the war.

“It sounded as if the war is restarting, a series of bombings that destroyed several houses in our area and shook the buildings,” Mohammad Jamal, 25, a resident of Gaza City, told Reuters via a chat app.

Later on Thursday, the Palestinian Civil Emergency Service said the Israeli military strikes had killed at least seven people in Shejaia so far. More casualties are feared to be under the rubble where rescue teams cannot reach, it said.

Footage obtained by Reuters showed women, men and children carrying bags and food as they ran in the streets after the raid began. Some men carried injured children, some bleeding, in their arms as they fled.

“This is the (Israeli) occupation targeting us, as you can see. You can see the children, the targeting of children here,” said a man carrying a bleeding boy in his arms.

An Israeli military spokesperson said they had no comment on reports of casualties in Shejaia.

The armed wing of Hamas ally Islamic Jihad said it had detonated a pre-planted explosive device against an Israeli tank east of the district.

Israel accuses the militants of hiding among civilians and says it warns displaced people to get out of the way of its operations against the fighters.

“For your safety, you must evacuate immediately south on Salah al-Din Street to the humanitarian zone,” army spokesperson Avichay Adraee posted on social media platform X in a call to residents and displaced people in Shejaia.

Residents and Hamas media said the tanks had moved in before the post and that people from the eastern suburb were running westward under fire as Israel had blocked the road south.

Just before midnight, an Israeli airstrike struck the headquarters of the Palestinian Civil Emergency Service in Al-Nuseirat camp in the central Gaza Strip, killing three members, the rescue service said. It said the new deaths raised to 74 the number of staff killed by Israeli fire since Oct. 7.

In Rafah, where tanks have advanced in several neighborhoods since May 7, medics said four Palestinians were killed by tank shells that landed in the western area of the city, where the Israeli army deepened its incursion in recent days. There has been no Israeli immediate comment on the two incidents.

More than eight months into Israel’s war on Gaza triggered by the Hamas-led cross-border attack on Oct. 7, aid officials say the enclave remains at high risk of famine, with almost half a million people facing “catastrophic” food insecurity.

“We are being starved in Gaza City, and are being hunted by tanks and planes with no hope that this war is ever ending,” Jamal said.


The death of another girl in Kamal Adwan Hospital late on Wednesday raised the number of children who have died of malnutrition and dehydration to at least 31, a Gaza health official said, adding that the war made recording such cases difficult.

Israel denies accusations it has created the famine conditions, blaming aid agencies for distribution problems and accusing Hamas of diverting aid, allegations the militants deny.

In southern Gaza, drone footage on social media, which Reuters could not immediately authenticate, showed dozens of houses destroyed in parts of Rafah, with the Swedeya village on the western side of the city wiped out.

There was no immediate Israeli military comment on the military action.

International mediation backed by the U.S. has failed to yield a ceasefire agreement although talks are continuing amid intense Western pressure for Gaza to receive more aid.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said on Wednesday that he had discussed his proposals for governance of post-war Gaza that would include local Palestinians, regional partners and the U.S. but that it would be “a long and complex process.”

Senior U.S. officials told Gallant, who was visiting Washington, that the U.S. would maintain a pause on a shipment of heavy munitions for Israel while the issue is under review. The shipment was paused in early May over concerns the weapons could cause more Palestinian deaths in Gaza.

Hamas says any deal must end the war and bring full Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, while Israel says it will accept only temporary pauses in fighting until Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2007, is eradicated.

When Hamas-led militants stormed into southern Israel last October, they killed around 1,200 people and seized more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

The Israeli offensive in retaliation has so far killed 37,765 people, the Gaza health ministry said on Thursday, and has left the tiny, heavily built-up Gaza Strip in ruins.

The Gaza health ministry does not distinguish between combatants and non-combatants, but officials say most of those killed have been civilians. Israel has lost 314 soldiers in Gaza and says at least a third of the Palestinian dead are fighters.