Israeli Airstrikes Hit Gaza City; Casualties Are Reported

At least two Israeli airstrikes shook Gaza City on Saturday, sending rescue workers rushing to the scene amid destruction and unconfirmed reports of high casualties.

Many details remained unclear, but the Israeli military said its fighter jets had targeted “Hamas military infrastructure” at two sites in the area of Gaza City, without elaborating. Gazan rescue workers and residents said there were many killed and wounded at the scene, and that at least one of the strikes was big enough to kick up huge clouds of dust.

Mahmoud Basal, a spokesman for the Palestinian Civil Defense emergency rescue organization, said that more than 30 people had been killed and 50 wounded in separate strikes in at least three Gaza City residential neighborhoods — Tuffah, Shujaiyya and Shati — and that other victims were believed to still be trapped under rubble.

The toll could not be independently verified, and Gazan authorities do not distinguish between civilians and combatants when reporting casualty figures.

It was unclear what or whom the Israeli airstrikes had targeted. Since the beginning of the war, Israel has sought to assassinate senior members of Hamas in Gaza, including militant commanders and Hamas’s chief in the enclave, Yahya Sinwar. While Israeli forces have had some success picking off midlevel figures, Mr. Sinwar and most of the leadership have successfully eluded them.

Hamas has taken advantage of the urban areas in Gaza to provide its fighters and weapons infrastructure with an extra layer of protection, running tunnels under neighborhoods, launching rockets near civilian homes and holding hostages in city centers. Ghazi Hamad, a senior Hamas official, has said that the group tries to keep Palestinian civilians out of harm’s way.

All three attacks took place around noon and targeted buildings in residential areas, said Mr. Basal, who said he visited the scenes. Rescuers were trying to reach people under the rubble, he said, “but our resources are limited.”

Mohammad Haddad, 25, who lives in Shati, heard “three or four loud explosions” before a cloud of gray dust descended upon the neighborhood. When the dust settled, Mr. Haddad said, he ventured out toward the site of the strikes.

The bombardment had hit six or seven houses in the same residential block, demolishing them, Mr. Haddad said. He said he saw roughly a dozen people killed and many others wounded.

“On the way, I saw people scattered on the ground,” some of them wounded and others killed, he said in a phone call. “There were so many, I couldn’t count.”

Human rights groups argue that Israel’s criteria for signing off on strikes during its campaign have been too permissive when it comes to civilian casualties. One airstrike in late October that targeted a Hamas militant commander in northern Gaza left dozens dead, including women and children.

In recent days, the Israeli military offensive has mostly focused on the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where Israeli forces have operated for the past month and a half. Many of the million Gazans who had been sheltering there fled to the nearby area of Al-Mawasi, a coastal area in the southern Gaza Strip, on orders from the Israeli military, which had designated the area as a “safer zone.”

On Friday, as many as 25 people were killed and 50 wounded amid tents that were housing displaced people in Al-Mawasi, according to aid agencies and Gazan health officials. The Israeli military said its initial inquiry showed “no indication” of a strike within the “safer zone.” It did not say whether it had struck elsewhere in the area.

Since the beginning of the war, Israeli military officials have said they will seek to target Palestinian militants wherever they operate, without ruling out striking in the areas they designate as safer.

Rawan Sheikh Ahmad contributed reporting from Haifa, Israel.

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