An Israeli raid targeting a Hamas leader in the densely populated Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip caused catastrophic damage and killed a large number of people, according to eyewitnesses and paramedics in the Strip.
Mohamed Ibrahim, an eyewitness, told CNN: “I was waiting in line to buy bread when suddenly seven to eight missiles fell without any prior warning.”
He said: “There were seven to eight huge holes in the ground, full of dead people, and body parts everywhere.” “It felt like the end of the world.”
According to a statement from the Israeli military, the airstrike targeted and killed Ibrahim Biyari, whom it described as one of the Hamas leaders responsible for the October 7 attack on Israel, which left more than 1,400 people dead and hundreds taken hostage.
The IDF also said that “several other Hamas terrorists” were wounded in the raid, and claimed that the Jabalia Central Brigade took control of civilian buildings.
But Hamas strongly denied the presence of one of its leaders in the camp. Hazem Qassem, the movement’s spokesman, accused Israel of trying to justify what he described as “a heinous crime against safe civilians, children and women in Jabalia camp.”
Eyewitness Mohammed Al-Aswad described the “horrific scene” following the strike, telling CNN that he ran to the refugee camp to check on his family after hearing the rockets fall.
“Children were carrying other injured children and running, and gray dust filled the air. Bodies were hanging on the rubble, many of them unidentified. Some were bleeding and others were burned,” Al-Aswad told CNN by phone.
He added that people in the area were hysterical. “I saw women screaming and feeling confused. They did not know whether to cry over the loss of their children or to run and look for them, especially since many children were playing in the neighborhood.”
Pictures from the scene showed a huge crater between the rubble and damaged buildings. Palestinians and rescue workers were seen trying to find the victims, some of them using their hands to remove waste.
Speaking with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Israeli military spokesman Lt. Col. Richard Hecht accused Hamas of “hiding, as it does, behind civilians.” Recalling that there were many innocent civilians in the camp, Hecht replied, “This is the tragedy of war,” and urged the civilians to move south.
Southern Gaza has also seen deadly air strikes, and aid organizations have repeatedly warned that nowhere is safe in the isolated enclave. The Israeli bombing of Gaza has killed at least 8,485 people and injured more than 21,000, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry in Ramallah, which relies on information from the Hamas-controlled enclave.
In the Indonesian Hospital, which is the closest large medical facility to Jabalia, video clips showed a long row of bodies lying on the hospital floor, in addition to large numbers of wounded, including children, while doctors rushed to treat their injuries.
Many injured people were seen receiving treatment on the ground due to overcrowding in the hospital. Hospital director Dr. Atef Al-Kalhout estimated the number of people killed in the explosion at dozens.
Another doctor, Muhammad Al-Ran, said: “What you see is a scene that no one can imagine: wounded martyrs, and hundreds of charred corpses.” “All we can do is continue to receive them. Most of the injuries are caused by explosives, head injuries and amputations.”
According to the Hamas-controlled Interior Ministry in Gaza, twenty homes were “completely destroyed” in the bombing.
Shortly after the explosion, the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem condemned the weeks-long Israeli air strikes on Gaza, saying in a statement issued on Tuesday that “the scale of the killing that Israel has committed and continues to inflict on Gaza is horrific.”
“More than 8,000 people have been killed so far, more than half of them women and children. Entire buildings have collapsed with their occupants still inside. Entire families have been wiped out in an instant. This criminal damage to civilians is intolerable and the obvious must be stated.” “Repeatedly – not everything is permissible in war, including the war against Hamas.”
The Palestinian Foreign Ministry described the raid as a “massacre,” referring to “chilling documented scenes” of children and women. The statement added: “It has its bones, in a large-scale massacre that was carried out in full view of the world and under the pretext of self-defense.”
Saudi Arabia, Iran, Jordan and Egypt also condemned the attack, and Egypt accused Israel of violating international law through what it said was “inhumane” targeting of a residential area. The ministry said that Egypt considered this a new flagrant violation by the Israeli forces of the provisions of international law and international humanitarian law.
When pressed several times during a White House news conference about the Jabaliya raid and whether Israel was doing enough to protect Palestinian civilians, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the United States had “indicators that it is trying.”
He added: “We will not respond to every event in real time, but we certainly realized that civilians were injured.” “Several thousand civilians have been killed… We realize that, we note that, and we do not accept the death of a single civilian in Gaza.”
He added, “It is not the goal of the Israeli forces to go out and deliberately cause the loss of the lives of innocent civilians, and they have tried to make efforts to reduce that.”
This story is evolving and being updated.
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