Israeli airstrikes have killed at least six people across the Gaza Strip and leveled the home of an extended family.
Despite mounting international pressure for a cease-fire, the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) said on Wednesday that it widened its strikes on militant targets in the Palestinian territory’s south to blunt continuing rocket fire from Hamas.
Residents, who surveyed the piles of bricks, concrete and other debris that had once been the home of forty members of al-Astal family, said a warning missile struck the building in the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis five minutes before the airstrike. The warning raid, they said, allowed everyone to escape.
Witnesses described a scene of panic before the airstrike hit, with men, women and children racing out of the building. Some of the women did not even have time to cover their hair with headscarves, they said.
The Associated Press reported the IDF as saying it struck militant targets around the towns of Khan Younis and Rafah, with fifty-two aircraft hitting forty underground targets.
It quoted Gaza’s Health Ministry as saying a woman was killed and eight people were wounded in those strikes.
Hamas-run Al-Aqsa radio said one of its reporters was killed in an airstrike in Gaza City. Among the six killed early on Wednesday were also two people who died when warning missiles crashed into their apartment.
The latest strikes came as diplomatic efforts aimed at a cease-fire gathered momentum and Gaza’s infrastructure, already weakened by a fourteen-year blockade, rapidly deteriorated. Medical supplies, water and fuel for electricity are running low in territory, on which Israel and Egypt imposed the blockade after the Hamas militant group defeated the more moderate Fatah organization and seized power in a 2007 war.
Reports say the Biden administration in Washington, which was privately encouraging Israel to wind down its bombardment of Gaza, has now joined forces with Egypt and other Arab allies to work towards halting the fighting.
The latest Israel-Gaza war began on May 10, when Hamas fired long-range rockets toward Jerusalem after days of clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, a flashpoint site sacred to Jews and Muslims.
Heavy-handed tactics at the compound by Israeli police, plus the threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinian families by Jewish settlers, had inflamed tensions.