The southern part of Gaza was taking a pounding on Saturday. Residents said houses and open areas had been hit and three mosques destroyed in Khan Younis. Columns of smoke rose into the sky.
In Deir Al-Balah city in central Gaza, nine Palestinians, including children, were killed in an air strike, health officials said.
Displaced Gazans have been sheltering in Khan Younis and Rafah because of fighting in the north of the densely populated enclave, but residents said they feared Israeli troops were preparing to move on the south.
“This is the same tactic they used before entering Gaza and the north,” said Yamen, who gave only his first name.
Yamen fled to Deir Al-Balah from the north after Israel destroyed several districts there.
“Where to after Deir Al-Balah, after Khan Younis? I don’t know where I would take my wife and six children,” he said.
On Saturday morning, Israeli warplanes attacked areas close to the Khan Younis Nasser Hospital six times, according to medics and witnesses.
The hospital is filled with thousands of displaced and hundreds of wounded, including many of those who had been evacuated from north Gaza hospitals.
“A night of horror,” said Samira, a mother of four. “It was one of the worst night we spent in Khan Younis in the past six weeks since we arrived here,” she said. “We are too afraid they will enter Khan Younis.”
The Israeli military said that in the last 24 hours combined attacks by its ground, air and naval forces had hit 400 militant targets and killed an unspecified number of Hamas fighters.
The conflict broke out on Oct 7 when Hamas militants crossed into southern Israel and killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, in a rampage against kibbutzim and other communities. More than 200 hostages were taken back into Gaza.
Israel responded with a bombing campaign and a ground offensive which has destroyed large areas of Gaza in what has become the bloodiest episode of the wider Israel-Palestinian conflict.