GAZA STRIP, Palestinian Territories (AFP) – Hamas said it was engaged in “heavy fighting” with Israeli troops on Sunday inside northern Gaza, where besieged residents were again told to flee.
After weeks of ferocious air strikes, Israel’s Prime Minister has declared a new “stage” in what he warned will be a “long and difficult” war.
Hamas said its Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades were already “engaged in heavy fighting… with the invading occupation forces”.
There is growing international concern about the toll of Israel’s campaign on Gaza’s 2.4 million residents.
The territory is under siege, with people unable to leave and only a trickle of humanitarian aid allowed in.
Meanwhile, Israel has carried out one of the most intense bombing campaigns in recent memory.
Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry says more than 8,000 people, mainly civilians, have been killed, many of them children.
“Where do you want us to evacuate to? All the areas are dangerous,” he said.
Etidal al-Masri was among those who did move south.
But even in the border town of Rafah, she still struggles to find even the basics amid shortages of food, water and medicine.
Gazans “must now queue for bread, toilets and even for sleep”, she said.
On Sunday, the desperation appeared to boil over.
The United Nations (UN) reported that “thousands of people” had ransacked its warehouses looking for tinned food, flour, oil and hygiene supplies.
The UN also reported that 33 trucks carrying water, food and medical supplies had entered Gaza from Egypt on October 29.
It is one of the largest deliveries to date, but still far short of the 100 trucks a day that aid groups say is needed.
International Criminal Court lead prosecutor Karim Khan warned Israel on Sunday that preventing access to humanitarian aid could be a “crime”.
The “burden” lies with Israel to distinguish between militants and innocent civilians in Gaza, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told CNN.
According to the UN, all 10 hospitals in northern Gaza have received evacuation orders — despite sheltering thousands of patients and about 117,000 of the displaced.
The Palestinian Red Crescent Society has said evacuation is impossible and reported repeated strikes around Al-Quds hospital in central Gaza.
The head of the World Health Organization said calls to evacuate Al-Quds hospital were “deeply concerning”.
“We reiterate — it’s impossible to evacuate hospitals full of patients without endangering their lives,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus wrote on X.
Mohamed al-Talmas, who has taken shelter in Gaza’s biggest hospital Al-Shifa, said “the ground shook” there with intense Israeli raids.
Israel describes Al-Shifa hospital as a de facto Hamas “command centre” and headquarters.
Washington has also expressed deep concern about the war spilling over, as Israel’s enemies — and in particular an Iran-allied “axis of resistance” — step up actions across the Middle East.
Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi has warned Israel’s “crimes have crossed the red lines, which may force everyone to take action”.
Since Hamas’s attack on October 7, Iran-backed groups have launched attacks from Lebanon, Yemen, Iraq and Syria.
Skirmishes have intensified on the Israeli-Lebanese border with Iran-backed Hamas ally Hezbollah.
On Sunday militants in south Lebanon fired rockets towards Israel, which has responded with strikes.