Israel said it killed a Hamas leader at a refugee camp, but many other people were wounded and killed, Hamas said. The assault came as fuel, food and water shortages pushed civilians to the brink.
Sign up for the Israel-Hamas War Briefing. The latest news about the conflict.
An airstrike that Israel said was targeting Hamas militants caused widespread damage in a densely populated neighborhood of Gaza on Tuesday. Hamas and hospital officials said numerous people were killed and wounded, as humanitarian organizations warned that the territory’s civilian population was at a breaking point.
The strike left the largest of Gaza’s eight refugee camps in chaos, and in its aftermath, distraught residents could be seen milling about the newly cratered terrain, which was strewn with shards of concrete. A photograph published by Reuters showed a Red Crescent ambulance on a street and more than 30 white sheets wrapped around what appeared to be bodies lying on the ground.
Hamas, the armed group that controls Gaza, and local doctors said hundreds of people had been wounded or killed at the Jabaliya refugee camp. Independent verification of the claim was not possible, but Israel itself described the strike as a “wide-scale” attack.
A nearby hospital was quickly overrun with patients. Dr. Marwan Sultan, medical director of the Indonesian Hospital, said many were women and children, and that dozens of others had been killed.
“We are receiving civilians,” Dr. Sultan said. “They should stop this war, this attack against civilians living in their homes. This is simply genocide, what’s happening now.”
The Israeli military said that its fighter jets had been targeting Hamas militants, among them Ibrahim Biari, a commander it described as a central figure behind the Hamas-led massacres that killed more than 1,400 people in Israel on Oct, 7. He and “a large number of terrorists who were with Biari were killed,” it said. The military claimed that an “underground terror infrastructure” — Hamas has built and extensive network of tunnels under the territory — had collapsed.
A Hamas spokesman denied that a Hamas commander had been in the area.
Even before the airstrike, world health officials were warning that Gazans were in dire danger as food, water and fuel dwindled to near nothing. In interviews, some described desperate conditions.
An aid worker with the U.N. agency that helps Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, his family itself now packed into an overcrowded shelter for refugees, said Tuesday that he tried to convince his 9-year-old daughter that they were on a camping trip. She was not buying it.
“Every basic need for humans became a distant dream for us,” said the aid worker, Hussein Owda.
A 50-year-old teacher, driven from his home by Israeli bombing, said some people had been reduced to drinking a mix of fresh and brackish water. His family members, said the teacher, Jaber Yahya, have access to fresh water, but are bathing with well water so salty that they have to squeeze their eyes shut when they wash their faces. “We are lucky to have it,” he said.
On Tuesday, Israel insisted that reports of a disaster in the Palestinian enclave, which it began attacking after the Hamas militants who rule it launched the devastating cross-border attack on Oct. 7, were being exaggerated.
“The situation is far from crisis,” said the Israeli authority for the Palestinian territories, claiming that it was monitoring the supply of water, food, fuel and energy there.
That assertion stood in sharp contrast to reports from the United Nations, international aid organizations, accounts from within Gaza and the photographs and video emerging from the coastal enclave that document dire shortages.
And all the while, the fighting itself has posed a threat to civilians, even those who heeded Israel’s urging to leave their homes to move to ostensibly safer parts of Gaza. Gaza’s Hamas-controlled Health Ministry says more than 8,000 people have been killed.
Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has repeatedly rejected calls for a cease-fire, saying that given the ferocity of the Hamas attack on Oct. 7, Israel is determined to wipe out the group once and for all.
In addition to Israel’s three weeks of sustained airstrikes in Gaza, its forces now appear to be slowly closing in around Gaza City, the territory’s largest city, where Israeli and Western officials say that Hamas has fighters, command centers and weapons caches both among the civilian centers and in a vast network of tunnels.
But the power of its onslaught in the densely populated enclave was drawing broad condemnation. Even the United States, a staunch ally, has urged restraint.
The director of the New York office of the United Nations’ human rights agency has resigned, accusing the U.N. in a sharply worded letter of abandoning its own principles and international law, and of failing to stop Israel’s deadly bombardment of Gaza, which he called a “genocide.”
“I write at a moment of great anguish for the world, including for many of our colleagues,” Craig Mokhiber, a human rights lawyer, wrote in the letter dated Oct. 28. “Once again, we are seeing a genocide unfolding before our eyes, and the organization that we serve appears powerless to stop it.”
Laura Gelbert Delgado, the spokeswoman for the U.N. human rights agency, put some distance between the agency and Mr. Mokhiber’s letter. “These are the personal views of a staff member who retires today,” she said on Tuesday.
But after the airstrike on the Jabaliya refugee camp on Tuesday, the chorus of protest grew still louder.
The camp is home to people who were displaced from what is now Israel in the 1940s and their descendants. While it is called a camp, the area is built up and densely populated, rather than a tent city. The camp covers an area of 1.4 square kilometers and is just to the north of Gaza City.
Jordan’s foreign ministry said it held Israel responsible for an “act that contradicts all human and moral values and the rules of international humanitarian law.” The foreign ministry of Egypt called the attack “inhumane” and a “blatant violation by Israeli forces of international law.”
Israel has defended not just its aerial and ground assaults on Gaza but also its tightening of the vise on supplies getting into the territory.
A spokesman for the Israeli military body that handles administrative aspects of the occupation, said in a statement on Tuesday that according to international law, Israel had “no obligation to provide goods and services to the terrorist organization Hamas — especially in cases where the enemy uses them for war purposes.”
But for civilians, with fuel in short supply, so were many of the basic necessities of life that depend on it.
Even as small quantities of food, water and medical supplies have entered from Egypt, Israel has insisted that no fuel is included in the convoys, leaving ambulances and other vehicles unable to operate and people unable to use fuel-powered generators as the normal electricity grid remains shut down.
On Tuesday, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken told American lawmakers that the United States was working on a mechanism to ship fuel to Gaza that would not help Hamas, and would instead be used for humanitarian purposes like powering water desalination plants.
“We have an obligation to do everything we can, if Hamas is not going to do it, to look out for the people of Gaza,” he said.
But Hamas, Mr. Blinken said, could do much to address the problem itself by reaching into its own stockpiles of fuel to power such plants and hospitals.
Philippe Lazzarini, the head of UNRWA, the U.N. agency for Palestinians, said Monday that desperation and panic — worsened by a communications blackout over the weekend — had pushed people to the brink. The aid agency is itself running out of fuel, water, food and medicine, and “will soon be unable to operate,” he said in remarks at the United Nations.
For many Gazans, the most immediate concern is water and food.
Mr. Owda, the U.N. aid worker, said that the roughly 22,000 people living in the shelter with him were drinking water normally used for irrigation, and that only 24 toilets were available.
Some aid trucks have made it through the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, which like Israel has long blocked the Gaza Strip, and Mr. Owda’s family got one package of food and water, he said.
But, he said, he last ate on Monday, when he shared a can of meat from the box with his children.
Reporting was contributed by Aaron Boxerman, Vivian Yee, Karoun Demirjian, Abu Bakr Bashir and Farnaz Fassihi.