Palestinians inspect the rubble following Israeli bombardment on Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on December 8, 2023, amid continuing battles between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas. Image Credit: AFP

Gaza / Jerusalem: Hundreds more Palestinians were killed as Israel fought Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip’s biggest cities on Thursday, and almost 2 million displaced Gazans facing shortages of food struggled to find safe refuge.

Residents reported fierce battles going on east of Khan Younis, southern Gaza’s largest city. Palestinian health officials said three Gazans were killed in an Israeli airstrike on a house in Deir Al-Balah in central Gaza.

Israel said its forces killed a number of gunmen in Khan Younis, including two who emerged firing from a tunnel.

Israeli TV showed footage of what it said were captured Hamas fighters, stripped to their underwear with heads bowed sitting in a Gaza City street.

Some Palestinians recognised relatives and denied they had any links to Hamas or any other group. Hani Almadhoun, a Palestinian American based in Virginia, saw relatives in the picture and told Reuters they were “innocent civilians with no links to Hamas or any other faction.”

“They took them from a house, that belongs to the family, in the area of the market. They detained my brother Mahmoud, 32, his son Omar, 13, my other nephew Aboud, 27, and my father 72, and several of our in-laws.”

Israeli military spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, said soldiers were fighting against militants in Hamas “centres of gravity.” “During this fighting, those who stay in the area, come out of tunnels and some out of houses, we investigate and check who is linked to Hamas and who is not, we detain and interrogate all of them,” Hagari said.

He did not speak directly about the images but said that hundreds of suspected militants have been interrogated so far and that many have surrendered in the past 24 hours.

Gazans have crammed into Rafah on the southern border with Egypt, heeding Israeli messages saying that they would be safe in the city after successive warnings to head south.

But more than 20 people were killed in apartments there late on Wednesday, said Eyad al-Hobi, a relative of some of those killed.

More than 17,170 Palestinians have been killed and 46,000 wounded, according to the Gaza health ministry, since Oct. 7, when Israel began bombarding Gaza in response to a cross-border rampage by Hamas militants who control the enclave. The Hamas attack killed 1,200 people, with 240 people taken hostage, according to Israel’s tally.

In the past 24 hours alone, 350 people had been killed, Gaza health ministry spokesman Ashraf Al-Qidra said.