After more than three weeks of siege, the first Palestinians — dozens of dual passport holders and seriously injured — were allowed to leave Gaza, where Israeli airstrikes pounded a refugee camp for the second day on Wednesday.
Even as bombings have driven tens of thousands from their homes and food, water and fuel run low, no one has been allowed to leave the embattled enclave, except for four hostages released by Hamas. Another captive was rescued by Israeli forces earlier this week. But a limited agreement appeared to have been reached on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Al-Jazeera television, one of the few media outlets still reporting from northern Gaza, aired footage of devastation in the Jabaliya refugee camp near Gaza City and of several wounded people, including children, being brought to a nearby hospital. The Hamas-run government said the strikes killed and wounded many people, but the exact toll was not yet known.
The toll from Tuesday’s strikes was also unknown, though the director of a nearby hospital said hundreds were killed or wounded. Israel said those strikes killed dozens of militants, including a senior Hamas commander.
More than 8,700 Palestinians have been killed in the war, mostly women and minors, and more than 22,000 people have been wounded, the Palestinian Health Ministry said on Wednesday.
Israeli ground forces were pushing to the outskirts of Gaza City, days after launching a new phase of the war that Israel’s leaders say will be long and difficult. As when Israeli troops first pushed into Gaza in larger numbers over the weekend, internet and phone service was cut for several hours Wednesday.