Renewed concerns about civilian deaths as Israel intensifies assault on southern Gaza after weeklong cease-fire ends

Israel pounded targets in the southern Gaza Strip on Saturday and ordered more neighborhoods designated for attack to evacuate, driving up the death toll as the United States and others urged it to do more to protect civilians a day after a truce collapsed.

CBS News was told by Israeli officials that part of the reason the fighting resumed was a terrorist attack that killed four in Jerusalem on Thursday. 

The prospect of further cease-fires in Gaza appeared bleak, as Israel recalled its negotiators and Hamas’ deputy leader said any further swap of Gaza-held hostages for Palestinians imprisoned by Israel would only happen as part of ending the war.  

“We will continue the war until we achieve all its goals, and it’s impossible to achieve those goals without the ground operation,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in an address Saturday night.  

About 200 Palestinians have been killed since the fighting resumed Friday morning, according to the health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza, even as the U.S. urged ally Israel to do everything possible to protect civilians. 

“This is going to be very important going forward,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday after meetings with Arab foreign ministers in Dubai, wrapping up his third Middle East tour since the war started. “It’s something we’re going to be looking at very closely.”

Palestinians look at destruction after the Israeli bombing In Khan Younis refugee camp in Gaza Strip on Friday, Dec. 1, 2023.

Mohammed Dahman / AP


Separately, the health ministry said the overall death toll in Gaza since the Oct. 7 start of the war had surpassed 15,200, a sharp jump from the previous count of more than 13,300 on Nov. 20. The ministry does not differentiate between civilian and combatant deaths, but it said 70% of the dead were women and children. It said more than 40,000 people had been wounded since the war began.  

Israel says it is targeting Hamas operatives and blames civilian casualties on the militants, accusing them of operating in residential neighborhoods. Israel says 77 of its soldiers have been killed in the ground offensive in northern Gaza. It claims to have killed thousands of militants, without providing evidence.

Many of Israel’s attacks Saturday were focused on the Khan Younis area in southern Gaza, where the military said it had struck more than 50 Hamas targets with airstrikes, tank fire and its navy. Israeli forces said that they have struck more than 400 targets overall since fighting resumed in Gaza on Friday. 

The military dropped leaflets the day before warning residents to leave but, as of late Friday, there had been no reports of large numbers of people leaving, according to the United Nations. 

“There is no place to go,” lamented Emad Hajar, who fled with his wife and three children from the northern town of Beit Lahia a month ago to seek refuge in Khan Younis.

“They expelled us from the north, and now they are pushing us to leave the south.”

Some 2 million people — almost Gaza’s entire population — are crammed into the territory’s south, where Israel urged people to relocate at the war’s start and has since vowed to extend its ground assault. Unable to go into north Gaza or neighboring Egypt, their only escape is to move around within the 85-square-mile area.

In response to U.S. calls to protect civilians, the Israeli military released an online map, but it has done more to confuse than to help.

It divides the Gaza Strip into hundreds of numbered, haphazardly drawn parcels, sometimes across roads or blocks, and asks residents to learn the number of their location in case of an eventual evacuation.

The Israeli military on Friday published a map of what it called “evacuation zones” in the Gaza Strip, after international demands to create safe areas where civilians can shelter from devastating bombardments.

OpenStreetMap contributors


“The publication does not specify where people should evacuate to,” the U.N. office for coordinating humanitarian issues in the Palestinian territory noted in its daily report. “It is unclear how those residing in Gaza would access the map without electricity and amid recurrent telecommunications cuts.”

In the first use of the map to order evacuations, Avichay Adraee, the Israeli military’s Arabic spokesperson, specified areas in the north and the south to be cleared out Saturday in posts on X, formerly Twitter.

Adraee listed numbered zones under evacuation order – but the highlighted areas on maps attached to his post did not match the numbered zones.

Egypt has expressed concerns the renewed offensive could cause Palestinians to try and cross into its territory. In a statement late Friday, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said the forced transfer of Palestinians “is a red line.”

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, who was in Dubai on Saturday for the COP28 climate conference, was expected to outline proposals with regional leaders to “put Palestinian voices at the center” of planning the next steps for the Gaza Strip after the conflict, according to the White House. U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration has been emphasizing the need for an eventual two-state solution, with Israel and a Palestinian state coexisting.

The renewed hostilities have also heightened concerns for 136 hostages who, according to the Israeli military, are still held captive by Hamas and other militants after 105 were freed during the truce. For families of remaining hostages, the truce’s collapse was a blow to hopes their loved ones could be the next out after days of seeing others freed. The Israeli army said Friday it had confirmed the deaths of four more hostages, bringing the total known dead to seven.


What does end of Israel-Hamas cease-fire mean for hostages still held in Gaza?

During the truce, Israel freed 240 Palestinians from its prisons. Most of those released from both sides were women and children.

The war began after the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas and other militants, who killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, in southern Israel and took around 240 people captive.

After the end of the truce, militants in Gaza resumed firing rockets into Israel, and fighting broke out between Israel and Hezbollah militants operating along its northern border with Lebanon.

Hundreds of thousands of people fled northern Gaza to Khan Younis and other parts of the south earlier in the war, part of an extraordinary mass exodus that has left three-quarters of the population displaced and facing widespread shortages of food, water and other supplies.

Israeli Iron Dome air defense system fires to intercept a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip, in Ashkelon, Israel, Friday, Dec. 1, 2023.

Tsafrir Abayov / AP


Since the resumption of hostilities, no aid convoys or fuel deliveries have entered Gaza, and humanitarian operations within Gaza have largely halted, according to the U.N.

The International Rescue Committee, an aid group operating in Gaza, warned the return of fighting will “wipe out even the minimal relief” provided by the truce and “prove catastrophic for Palestinian civilians.”

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