Diplomatic efforts to arrange a ceasefire to let aid reach the besieged Gaza Strip have failed and Israel has ordered the evacuation of villages in a strip of territory near its border with Lebanon, raising fears the war could spread to a new front.
Israel has vowed to annihilate the Hamas movement that rules Gaza, after its fighters burst across the barrier surrounding the enclave on October 7, gunning down 1300 Israelis, mainly civilians, in the deadliest day in Israel’s 75-year history.
It has put Gaza, home to 2.3 million Palestinians, under a total blockade and pounded it with unprecedented air strikes and is widely expected to launch a ground assault.
Gaza authorities say at least 2750 people have been killed there, including mainly civilians.
According to the United Nations, a million Gazans have already been driven from their homes.
Power is out, sanitary water is scarce and the last fuel for emergency generators could be used up within a day.
Residents said overnight air strikes were the heaviest yet, and the bombing carried on through the day.
“We were inside the house when we found bodies scattering, flying in the air – bodies of children who have nothing to do with the war,” said resident Abed Rabayaa, whose neighbour’s house in Khan Younis, the main city in the southern part of the enclave, was hit overnight.
In the biggest sign yet that the war could spread to a new front, Israel ordered the evacuation on Monday of 28 villages in a 2km-deep zone near its Lebanese border.
Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement said it had targeted five Israeli positions.
In retaliation the Israeli side fired shells at the outskirts of the village of Dheihra in southern Lebanon.
According to a Lebanese security source, a shell fell near a Lebanese army post in Dheihra.
The Israeli army said soldiers operating along the Lebanese border were fired at but there were no injuries.
In a speech to parliament, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israelis should prepare for a long battle, and delivered a warning to Iran and Hezbollah.
“Now we are focused on one target: to unite forces and charge forward to victory. This requires determination because victory will take time,” he said.
“And I have a message for Iran and Hezbollah, don’t test us in the north. Don’t make the same mistake you once made. Because today the price you will pay will be much heavier.”
The 10 days of strikes so far have failed to eliminate Hamas’ capability to fire rockets into Israel, where warning sirens sounded.
Hamas said it fired a barrage at Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
Diplomatic efforts have concentrated on getting aid into Gaza through the Rafah crossing with Egypt – the sole route out that is not controlled by Israel.
Egypt said Israel was not co-operating, leaving hundreds of tonnes of supplies stuck.
“There is an urgent need to alleviate the suffering of Palestinian civilians in Gaza,” Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry told reporters, adding talks with Israel on opening Rafah for aid had so far been fruitless.
Early on Monday, two Egyptian security sources had told Reuters a temporary ceasefire in southern Gaza had been agreed to last several hours to facilitate aid and evacuations at Rafah.
However, Egyptian state TV later quoted an unnamed, high-level source as saying that no truce had been agreed.
Israel and Hamas both denied reports of a deal to open the crossing.
On the ground at Rafah, one source said the Egyptian side of the crossing was ready.
Hundreds of tonnes of aid from agencies and donor countries was waiting on trucks in the nearby Egyptian town of Al-Arish for clearance to enter.
“We are waiting for the green light for the aid to enter and dozens of volunteers are ready at any time,” a Red Crescent official in northern Sinai said.