Israel has bombed areas of Jabalia in northern Gaza overnight, with fighting throughout this morning, residents and Palestinian media have said, as the Israeli military announced a mounting death toll in clashes with Hamas militants.
Israel says it has achieved almost complete operational control over northern Gaza and is preparing to expand a ground offensive to other areas, but Jabalia residents reported persistent aerial bombardment and shelling from Israeli tanks, which they said had moved further into the town on Saturday.
The Israeli military appeared to be meeting stiff resistance.
It said eight soldiers had been killed in the Strip, bringing to 154 its published combat losses since its ground incursion in response to Hamas’ 7 October rampage into Israel, in which militants killed 1,200 and took 240 hostages.
The White House said US President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had discussed the Israeli campaign.
Mr Biden “emphasised the critical need to protect the civilian population including those supporting the humanitarian aid operation, and the importance of allowing civilians to move safely away from areas of ongoing fighting”, the White House said in a statement.
“The leaders discussed the importance of securing the release of all remaining hostages,” the White House said.
Mr Netanyahu “made clear that Israel will pursue the war until all of its objectives are fully met”, his office said.
Israel’s main ally has maintained its support while expressing concern over the casualty toll and humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
US officials have said they expect Israel to shift soon to a lower-intensity phase, with operations targeting the Hamas leadership and its infrastructure.
The UN Security Council averted a threatened US veto on Friday, after days of wrangling, by removing from a draft resolution a call for an immediate end to the war and diluting Israeli control over aid deliveries.
The US and Israel oppose a ceasefire, contending it would let Iran-backed Hamas regroup and rearm.
Washington abstained from the final statement, which urges steps to allow “safe, unhindered, and expanded humanitarian access” to Gaza and “conditions for a sustainable cessation” of fighting.
The Palestinian death toll reached 20,258, the Palestinian health ministry said yesterday, with thousands more bodies believed trapped under rubble.
Almost all of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have been displaced.
‘International law has collapsed’
Israel has long urged residents to leave northern areas of Gaza, but its forces have been bombarding targets in central and southern parts of the tiny coastal enclave.
In Rafah, on Gaza’s southern border with Egypt, an Israeli air strike on a house killed two people, Palestinian medics said.
“They ask people to head to Deir al-Balah (in central Gaza), where they bomb day and night,” Ziad, a medic and father of six, told Reuters by phone.
“International law has collapsed,” said Ramzy Aidy, a Gaza resident with a doctorate in law. “If Israel were in the Palestinians’ position, the world would not stand still and would act.”
Hamas’ armed wing Al Qassam Brigades said on yesterday it destroyed five Israeli tanks around Jabalia, killing and wounding their crews after reusing two undetonated missiles launched by Israel.
Reuters could not independently verify the report.
The Israeli Defence Forces said they had fired decoy shots in the area of Issa in Gaza City that lured dozens of militants from a building that served as a Hamas headquarters in the north of the enclave, “eliminating the terrorists”.
The army released a video it said showed Hamas tunnels in the Issa area. Reuters could not independently verify the location or the date.
Israel accuses the militant group of placing tunnels and other military infrastructure among civilians to use them as human shields, something Hamas denies.
Hamas said it had lost contact with a group it said was responsible for five of the Israeli hostages due to Israeli bombardment.
An Israeli military spokesperson described the statement as “psychological terrorism” from Hamas.
The conflict has spread, as Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi forces disrupt global trade with missile and drone attacks on vessels in the Red Sea in retaliation for Israel’s assault on Gaza.
The United States shot down four drones launched from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen towards a US destroyer in the southern Red Sea yesterday, bringing to 15 the number of such attacks on commercial shipping, US Central Command said.
A drone launched from Iran struck a chemical tanker in the Indian Ocean yesterday, the US Defense Department said.
An Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander said the Mediterranean Sea could be closed if the United States and its allies kept committing “crimes” in Gaza, Iranian media reported, without elaborating.