Hopes for a brief ceasefire in southern Gaza to allow foreign passport holders to leave the besieged Palestinian enclave and aid to be brought in were dashed on Monday.
This came up as Israeli bombardments were intensifying ahead of an expected ground invasion.
Residents of Hamas-ruled Gaza said the overnight strikes were the heaviest yet in nine days of conflict. Many houses were flattened and the death toll rose inexorably, they said.
Diplomatic efforts have been underway to get aid into the enclave, which has endured unrelenting Israeli bombing since the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas militants that killed 1,300 people, the bloodiest single day in the state’s 75-year history.
Israel has imposed a full blockade and is preparing a ground invasion to enter Gaza and destroy Hamas, which has continued to fire rockets at Israel since its brief cross-border assault.
On Monday, rocket-warning sirens sounded in several towns in southern Israel, the Israeli military said.
Israeli troops and tanks are already massed on the border.
Authorities in Gaza said at least 2,750 people had so far been killed by the Israeli strikes, a quarter of them children, and nearly 10,000 wounded. A further 1,000 people were missing and believed to be under rubble.
As the humanitarian crisis deepened, with food, fuel and water running short, hundreds of tons of aid from several countries have been held up in Egypt pending a deal for its safe delivery to Gaza and the evacuation of some foreign passport holders through the Rafah border crossing.
Earlier on Monday, Egyptian security sources had told Reuters that an agreement had been reached to open the crossing to allow aid into the enclave.
However, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said in a statement, “there is currently no truce and humanitarian aid in Gaza in exchange for getting foreigners out.”
Chief military spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari also said there was no Gaza ceasefire and that Israel was continuing its attacks.
Hamas official Izzat El Reshiq told Reuters that there was “no truth” to the reports about the opening of the crossing with Egypt or a temporary ceasefire.
Egypt has said the crossing remained open from the Egyptian side in recent days but was rendered inoperable due to Israeli bombardments on the Palestinian side.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said on Monday that the Israeli government had yet to take a stance that allowed the crossing to open. He called the situation faced by the Palestinian people in Gaza “dangerous”.
The situation remained unclear at the Rafah crossing, the only one not controlled by Israel. Reuter’s journalists said a small crowd of people had gathered there waiting to enter Egypt.
The United States had told its citizens in Gaza to get close to the crossing so they could move out. The U.S. government estimates the number of dual-citizen Palestinian-Americans in Gaza at 500 to 600.
Washington is also seeking to secure the release of 199 hostages that Israel said were taken by Hamas back into Gaza. Among them are elderly people, women and children and foreigners, including Americans.
U.S. President Joe Biden has sent military aid to Israel but also stressed the need to get humanitarian aid to Palestinian civilians and urged Israel to follow the rules of war in its response to the Hamas attacks. (Reuters/NAN)