Israel launches deadly Gaza strikes as Mideast tensions rise
GAZA, Palestine (AFP) - Israeli bombing martyred dozens of people in besieged Gaza, the health ministry of the Hamas-run Palestinian territory said Thursday, as regional tensions have surged over the almost three-months-old war.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was due to head to the Middle East, a US official said on condition of anonymity, the top diplomat's fourth trip to the region since the Hamas attack of October 7 triggered the bloodiest ever Gaza war.
The Israeli military, in its campaign to destroy the Islamist militant group, has reported more strikes in and around Gaza City, now a largely devastated urban combat zone, and Khan Yunis, the biggest city in the territory's south.
The Gaza health ministry reported at least 22,438 people have been martyred in the territory since the war between militants and Israel erupted on October 7. A ministry statement recorded 125 fatalities over the past 24 hours, while a total of 57,614 people have been wounded in the fighting.
Fires sparked by bombing raged in Gaza's central Deir al-Balah area and the Al-Maghazi refugee camp. "People were safe in their homes, the house was full of children," resident Ibrahim al-Ghimri told AFP. "There were around 30 people. All of a sudden their houses fell on them... What have these children done?"
Tensions have also surged with Israel's northern neighbour Lebanon, where a strike in Beirut, widely assumed to have been carried out by Israel, killed Hamas deputy leader Saleh al-Aruri, who was being buried Thursday, mourned by large crowds.
Aruri was killed Tuesday in the south Beirut stronghold of the powerful Iran-backed Hezbollah movement, which has traded tit-for-tat fire across the border with Israel for months.
Hezbollah has vowed that the killing of Aruri and six other Hamas operatives on its home turf will not go unpunished, labelling it "a serious assault on Lebanon... and a dangerous development". Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah warned Israel against all-out conflict, after Israeli army chief Herzi Halevi, in a visit to the Lebanese border, said troops were "in very high readiness".
Nasrallah said that "for now, we are fighting on the frontline following meticulous calculations" but warned that, "if the enemy thinks of waging a war on Lebanon, we will fight without restraint, without rules, without limits". The Lebanese Shiite Muslim group said on Thursday another four of its fighters were killed overnight, raising its death toll to 129 since the outbreak of border hostilities.