Israel pounds Gaza after night raids targeting Hamas tunnels

28 Oct 2023 03:57pm
A dense cloud of smoke from the bombing of the Gaza Strip invades the Israeli border city of Ashkelon on the night of Oct 27. Photo by Yuri Cortez/AFP
A dense cloud of smoke from the bombing of the Gaza Strip invades the Israeli border city of Ashkelon on the night of Oct 27. Photo by Yuri Cortez/AFP

GAZA STRIP - Israel pounded the Hamas-run Gaza Strip with air and artillery strikes on Saturday after an intense night of attacks when it said 150 "underground targets" were hit.

No official toll was immediately given, but a Gaza civil defence official told AFP a "large number" of dead was feared from one of the most intense nights of attacks in Israel's war in response to the Hamas attacks on Oct 7.

Israel has been building up to a ground invasion since Hamas fighters crossed the border on Oct 7.

The Hamas-controlled health ministry says that more than 7,300 people have been killed in Gaza, including about 3,000 children.

A thick haze of smoke covered Gaza and southern Israel after the night of heavy bombardment, according to AFP correspondents.

More air raids and artillery shelling were reported after daybreak but less intense than during the night.

The Gaza civil defence official told AFP: "There are a large number of martyrs and a large number of survivors under the rubble, and we cannot reach them," the official said.

Residents told AFP the Indonesian Hospital in Beit Lahia was damaged by a tank shell and there was major damage around Al-Shifa hospital, Gaza's biggest hospital where thousands of people have taken refuge.

The Israeli army has charged that Hamas fighters were using hospitals in Gaza to "wage war" against Israel.

Paramedics said many people were feared dead after an apartment block and nearby houses were destroyed at dawn at the Beach camp.

- 'Big plan' -

Since the Oct 7 attacks, Israel warned about 1.1 million people in northern Gaza that they should move to the south.

The Israeli military believes the Hamas leadership and its main infrastructure is concentrated in the north.

An unnamed officer quoted by an Israeli military account on X, the former Twitter, said: "We are bombarding Gaza with an intensity that has never been seen before in the Gaza Strip. From the air, from the ground or from the underground -- the IDF (Israeli army) will eliminate every senior or junior terrorist and all Hamas terrorist infrastructure."

Just before the latest strikes, a senior Israeli officer said the raids did not mark the start of the ground invasion.

"When the war starts, we will know it we will hear it, we will see it," said Colonel Golan Vach, head of Israel's search and rescue operation.

"It is going to be lethal and it is going to take time. What you saw in the past two days of small forces movement inside and out of Gaza was for other reasons. Not so much operational but part of the big plan."

More than eight hours of night attacks on the besieged Palestinian territory into the early hours of Saturday rattled windows and shook the ground in Ashkelon 10 kilometres (6.5 miles) from the Gaza border.

Smoke and the pungent smell of burning material filled the air in the city that has been mainly evacuated since the attacks, an AFP correspondent said.

Israeli military jets continued to fly overhead Saturday and regular concussive booms could be heard coming from Gaza. - AFP