BUREIJ REFUGEE CAMP, Gaza Strip (AP) — The gray film covering the faces of children rushed to Al-Aqsa Hospital in central Gaza Thursday made it hard to distinguish between the living and the dead.
After two Israeli airstrikes flattened an entire block of apartment buildings in the Bureij refugee camp and damaged two U.N. schools-turned-shelters, rubble-covered Palestinians big and small arrived at a hospital too packed to take them.
Tiny, motionless bodies lay flat against the hospital’s hard floor. A small boy bled out onto the tiles as medics tried to staunch the flow from his head. A baby lay next to him with an oxygen mask strapped on — covered in ash, his chest struggled to rise and fall. Their father sat beside them.
“Here they are, America! Here they are, Israel!” he screamed. “They are children. Our children die every day.”
More than 3,700 Palestinian children and minors have been killed in just under a month of fighting, and bombings have driven more than half the territory’s 2.3 million people from their homes, while food, water and fuel run low.
As Israeli troops encircle Gaza City and press ahead with a ground offensive, the death toll is expected to grow.
The war was triggered by the Hamas militant group’s brutal cross-border attack on Oct. 7, which killed some 1,400 people in Israel and took some 240 others hostage. More than 9,000 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed since then, according to the Health Ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza. It is the fifth and by far deadliest war between the two enemies.
It was not immediately clear why Israel targeted Bureij, which is located in central Gaza in an area where Israel has urged people to go to stay safe from heavy fighting further north.
The army said that airstrikes across Gaza had targeted Hamas military command centers hidden in civilian areas. But its statement did not mention Bureij specifically. Israel accuses Hamas of using civilians as human shields.
The Bureij strikes Thursday killed at least 15, Gaza’s Civil Defense said. It said dozens of others were believed to be buried in the rubble.
Paramedics and first-responders have struggled to evacuate the injured and the dead due to crippled infrastructure and fuel shortages. Instead, casualties flow into hospitals in the arms of relatives, neighbors or anyone able to transport the wounded.
In Bureij, which is home to an estimated 46,000 people, Palestinians hacked at the rubble, searching for survivors. A young girl found under the deluge was carried into the emergency room. With her foot bloody and her face covered in ash, she insisted to medics she was fine.
Frankel reported from Jerusalem.
Find more of AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war