“WE NEED TO KNOW THEY ARE ALIVE”
Ahead of the ceasefire, fighting continued at even greater than normal intensity, with Israeli jets hitting more than 300 targets and troops engaged in heavy fighting around Jabalia refugee camp north of Gaza City.
An army spokesman said operations would continue until troops received the order to stop.
The Indonesian hospital in Gaza City was reeling under relentless bombing, operating without light and filled with bedridden old people and children, Gaza health officials said.
International alarm has focused on the fate of hospitals, especially in Gaza’s northern half, where all medical facilities have ceased functioning with patients, staff and displaced people trapped inside.
Hamas said 30 people had been killed in an Israeli strike on a school affiliated with the UNRWA in Jabalia. There was no immediate comment from UNRWA.
Earlier, from across the border fence in Israel, clouds of smoke could be seen billowing above northern Gaza’s war zone accompanied by the sounds of heavy gunfire and booming explosions.
In Rafah, on the strip’s southern edge, residents combed with bare hands through the ruins of a house smashed in a giant crater. A grey-bearded man wailed amid the shattered masonry while another man lay a hand on his shoulder to comfort him. Neighbour Khaled Hamad told Reuters it was the home of a primary school teacher, killed inside with his children.
Israel says Hamas fighters use residential and other civilian buildings, including hospitals, as cover. Hamas denies this.
The delay to the start of the truce meant another day of worry for Israeli relatives who say they still know nothing about the fate of hostages, and of fear for Palestinian families trapped inside the Gaza combat zone.
“We need to know they are alive, if they’re okay. It’s the minimum,” said Gilad Korngold, desperate for any information about the fate of seven of his family members, including his 3-year-old granddaughter, believed to be among the hostages.
Palestinian media reported at least 15 people killed in air strikes on Khan Younis, Gaza’s main southern city. Reuters could not independently verify the toll there.
In a post on X, Doctors Without Borders said the city’s Nasser hospital, where it treats burn patients and supports the emergency room, was overflowing with patients and families sheltering in the building.
Israel said on Thursday it had detained the head of Gaza’s biggest hospital Al Shifa for questioning over his role in what it said was the hospital’s use as a Hamas command centre.
Hamas condemned the arrest of Shifa director Muhammad Abu Salamiya and other doctors it said were trying to evacuate remaining patients and wounded from the facility.