Israel stepped up its offensive on Tuesday, expanding the mobilization of reservists to 360,000. Israel’s military said it had regained effective control over areas Hamas attacked in its south and of the Gaza border.
A looming question is whether Israel will launch a ground assault into Gaza — a 40-kilometer-long (25-mile) strip of land wedged among Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea that is home to 2.3 million people and has been governed by Hamas since 2007.
Rescue officials in Gaza said “large numbers” of people were still trapped under the remnants of leveled buildings, with rescue equipment and ambulances unable to reach the area.
On Tuesday, a large part of Gaza City’s Rimal neighborhood was reduced to rubble after hours of airstrikes the night before. Residents found buildings torn in half or demolished to mounds of concrete and rebar. Cars were flattened and trees burned out on residential streets transformed into moonscapes.
Palestinian Civil Defense forces pulled Abdullah Musleh out of his basement together with 30 others after their apartment building was flattened.
“I sell toys, not missiles,’’ the 46-year-old said, weeping. “I want to leave Gaza. Why do I have to stay here? I lost my home and my job.”
The Israeli military said it struck hundreds of targets in Rimal, an upscale district home to ministries of the Hamas-run government, universities, media organizations and the aid agency offices.
In a new tactic, Israel is warning civilians to evacuate neighborhood after neighborhood, and then inflicting devastation, in what could be a prelude to a ground offensive. On Tuesday, the military told residents of the nearby al-Daraj neighborhood to evacuate. New explosions soon rocked it and other areas, continuing into the night.
In Gaza, more than 200,000 people have fled their homes, the U.N. said, the most since a 2014 air and ground offensive by Israel uprooted about 400,000. The vast majority are sheltering in schools run by the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees. Damage to three water and sanitation sites have cut off services to 400,000 people, the U.N. said.
The U.N.’s World Health Organization said that supplies it had pre-positioned for seven hospitals in Gaza have already run out amid the flood of wounded. The head of the medical aid group Doctors Without Borders said surgical equipment, antibiotics, fuel and other supplies were running out at two hospitals it runs in Gaza.