By Nidal Al-Mughrabi

Deir Al-Balah, central Gaza Strip - Some Palestinian civilians were fleeing their homes in northern Gaza on Wednesday just weeks after returning because of an Israeli bombardment which they said was as intense as those at the start of the war.

Much of the shelling was focused for a second day on Beit Lahiya on the northern edge of Gaza, where the Israeli military gave evacuation orders to four neighbourhoods on Tuesday, warning they were in a "dangerous combat zone".

After a few weeks of relative calm, Israel intensified its attacks overnight on Monday, focusing on areas, particularly in the north, from where it had previously withdrawn many of its troops, saying Hamas was no longer in control.

Israeli media said Israel was also ready to send troops into the southern town of Rafah, which it regards as Hamas' last bastion. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office and the Israeli military spokesperson's office had no immediate comment on the media reports.

Israel has vowed to eradicate Hamas after the militant group's fighters stormed across the border on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 and taking 253 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

The war, now in its seventh month, has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians, with many more feared buried in the rubble. The offensive has laid to waste much of the densely populated enclave, displacing most of its 2.3 million people and creating a humanitarian crisis.

In the past 24 hours, Israeli strikes have killed 79 Palestinians and wounded 86 others, the Gaza Health Ministry said, adding many remain under rubble, or in the streets, where civil emergency and ambulance teams have not been able to reach them due to ongoing military operations and a lack of heavy earth moving machines.

Two people were killed in a strike on a house in the southern city of Rafah, four were killed when a missile hit a group standing outside a supermarket in the Al-Nuseirat refugee camp and one was killed in a strike on a house in Deir Al-Balah, central Gaza, Palestinian health officials said.

Residents in northern Gaza and suburbs of Gaza City also reported heavy shelling.
"We don't know why this is all happening. Is it because we returned home and we finally got some aid through after months of starvation and the Israelis didn't like that?" said Mohammad Jamal, 29, a resident of Gaza City, near Zeitoun, one of Gaza's oldest suburbs.

"It is as if the war started again. As if it is just happening, they burnt up the place," he told Reuters via a chat app.

Asked about Wednesday's developments, the Israeli military had no immediate comment.


Israel said its operations in Beit Lahiya targeted areas from where the armed wing of Hamas-aligned Islamic Jihad had fired rockets at two Israeli border settlements on Tuesday.

Additional targets, including operational tunnel shafts, military structures and a launcher containing rockets ready to be fired at Israel were also struck, the Israeli military said in a statement late on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, residents also reported shelling in central Gaza around Al-Nuseirat and Khan Younis, a city in the south from where troops withdrew earlier this month.

In one incident, Al-Nuseirat residents said an army helicopter landed near the camp and engaged in gun battles with fighters. The area then came under heavy tank fire.
Reuters was unable to independently confirm the report.

In the Nasser hospital complex, the main medical facility in the south, authorities said they had recovered more bodies from a mass grave found there, taking the total to 334.

Palestinians say Israeli troops buried corpses there with bulldozers to cover up crimes. The Israeli military said its troops dug up some bodies at the site and reburied them after testing to make sure no hostages were among them.

Asked about the army's comments, Ismail Al-Thawabta, the director of the Hamas-run government media office, told Reuters many of the bodies that have been identified belonged to people who were alive when the army raided Nasser Hospital.

"Families of some of the martyrs also confirmed they had contacts with their relatives before the hospital was stormed. They were shocked to find that their sons were martyred and buried," Thawabta said.

Israeli media suggested Israel would, after weeks of delay, soon send troops into Rafah, on the southern border with Egypt, where more than a million displaced Palestinians are sheltering.

Plans for an attack on the town, where Israel says four intact Hamas battalions are sheltering, has raised widespread international concern, with aid agencies warning of a potential humanitarian catastrophe.