Renewed fighting in Gaza stretched into a second day on Saturday after talks to extend a week-old truce with Hamas collapsed and mediators said Israeli bombardments were complicating attempts to again pause hostilities.
Eastern areas of Khan Younis in southern Gaza came under intense bombardment as the truce deadline lapsed shortly after dawn on Friday, with columns of smoke rising into the sky, Reuters journalists in the city said.
By Friday evening, Gaza health officials said Israeli air strikes had killed 184 people, wounded at least 589 others and hit more than 20 houses.
Residents took to the road with belongings heaped up in carts, searching for shelter further west.
The warring sides blamed the other for the collapse of the truce by rejecting terms to extend the daily release of hostages held by militants in exchange for Palestinians held in Israeli jails.
The United Nations said the fighting would worsen an extreme humanitarian emergency. “Hell on Earth has returned to Gaza,” said Jens Laerke, spokesperson for the U.N. humanitarian office in Geneva.
“Today, in a matter of hours, scores were reportedly killed and injured. Families were told to evacuate, again. Hopes were dashed,” said U.N. aid chief Martin Griffiths, adding that children, women and men of Gaza had “nowhere safe to go and very little to survive on.”
A pause that started on Nov. 24 had been extended twice and Israel had said it could continue as long as Hamas released 10 hostages each day. But after seven days during which women, children and foreign hostages were freed, mediators failed to find a formula to release more, including Israeli soldiers and civilian men.
Israel accused Hamas of refusing to release all the women it held. A Palestinian official said the breakdown occurred over female Israeli soldiers.
Israel has sworn to annihilate Hamas after an Oct. 7 rampage in which it says the militant group killed 1,200 people and took 240 hostage.
Israeli assaults since have laid waste much of Gaza, which Hamas has ruled since 2007. Palestinian health authorities deemed reliable by the United Nations say more than 15,000 Gazans have been killed and thousands are missing.