Israeli strike kills at least 4 at Gaza aid centre

OMAR AL-QATTAA/ AFP [file picture]

At least four Palestinians were killed on Sunday in an Israeli air strike on a training college near Gaza City being used to distribute aid as Israeli tanks pushed further into the southern city of Rafah.

The strike hit part of an industrial college run by the UN Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA now providing aid to displaced families, witnesses said.

"Some people were coming to receive coupons and others had been displaced from their houses and they were sheltering here. Some were filling up water, others were receiving coupons, and suddenly we heard something falling. We ran away, those who were carrying water let it spill," said Mohammed Tafesh, one of the witnesses.

A Reuters photographer saw a low-rise building completely demolished and bodies wrapped in blankets laid out beside the road, waiting to be taken away.

More than eight months into Israel's war in the Hamas-administered Palestinian enclave, its advance is focused on the two areas its forces have yet to seize - Rafah on Gaza's southern tip and the area surrounding Deir al-Balah in the centre.

Residents said Israeli tanks had advanced to the edge of the Mawasi displaced persons' camp in the northwest of Rafah in fierce fighting with Hamas-led fighters, as part of a push into western and northern Rafah in which they had blown up dozens of houses in recent days.

The Israeli military said it was continuing "intelligence-based, targeted operations" in the Rafah area and had located weapons stores and tunnel shafts, and killed Palestinian gunmen.

The armed wings of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad movement said their fighters had attacked Israeli forces in Rafah with anti-tank rockets and mortar bombs and pre-planted explosive devices.

On Saturday, Palestinian health officials said at least 40 Palestinians had been killed in separate Israeli strikes in some northern Gaza districts, where the Israeli army said it had attacked Hamas's military infrastructure. Hamas said the targets were the civilian population.

Israel's ground and air campaign in Gaza was triggered when Hamas fighters stormed into southern Israel on October 7, killing around 1,200 people and seizing more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

The offensive has left Gaza in ruins, killed almost 37,600 people, according to Palestinian health authorities, and left nearly the entire population homeless and destitute.

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