By Nidal Al-Mughrabi and Arafat Barbakh

CAIRO/GAZA, 30 Dec.(ANA) - Israeli tanks pushed deeper into districts in central and southern Gaza overnight under heavy air and artillery fire, residents said, pressing a deadly offensive that has razed much of the enclave and that Israel has said may last months more.

Fighting late on Friday and early Saturday was focused in al-Bureij, Nuseirat, Maghazi and Khan Younis, backed by intensive air strikes that filled hospitals with injured Palestinians.

The bombardment has killed 100 Palestinians and injured 150 in the central Gaza Strip over the past 24 hours, a senior health official in central Gaza said.

At Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, the biggest and most important medical facility in the south of the tiny, crowded territory, Red Crescent images posted online showed ambulances operating amid smashed streets, carrying injured children.

Almost all of Gaza's 2.3 million residents have been forced from their homes by Israel's withering 12-week assault, triggered by the Hamas attack on Oct. 7 that killed 1,200 people and brought 240 hostages into the group's grasp.

The offensive has killed at least 21,500 Palestinians, according to health authorities in Hamas-run Gaza, and the conflict risks spreading across the region, drawing in Iran-aligned groups in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen.

Bombardment has smashed houses, apartment blocks and businesses and put hospitals out of action. On Saturday the Palestinian Culture Ministry said Israeli strikes had struck a medieval bathhouse. The old Great Mosque was hit earlier in the war.

Ziad, a medic in Maghazi in central Gaza, was planning to flee with his family of three children. The only road still open for them was the coastal route running past Deir al-Balah, already crammed with displaced.

But he said they would press on straight to Rafah, on the border with Egypt, fearing a new Israeli assault on Deir al-Balah, he said. "We want a ceasefire now. Not tomorrow even. Enough, more than enough, already," he said.

Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said on Friday troops were reaching Hamas command centres and arms depots and pictures the military released showed soldiers moving across churned-up earth among ruins of destroyed buildings.

The Israeli military said it had destroyed a tunnel complex in the basement of one of the houses of the Hamas leader for Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, in Gaza City.

The U.S. has called for Israel to scale down the war in coming weeks and move to targeted operations against Hamas leaders, although so far it shows no sign of doing so.

On Friday U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken approved the sale of more artillery shells and other equipment to Israel without congressional review, the Pentagon said.


AID


Israel said on Friday it had facilitated the entry of vaccines into Gaza in coordination with UNICEF, the United Nations children's agency, to help prevent the spread of disease.

The little aid reaching the enclave since the start of the war, when Israel imposed a near total blockade on all food, medicine and fuel, has come across the border with Egypt.

Israel has only allowed access to the south of the enclave, where it started ordering all Gaza civilians to move from October, and aid agencies have said Israeli inspections have stopped all but a small fraction of needed supplies getting in.

An Israeli government spokesman said on Friday it does not limit humanitarian aid and the problem was with its distribution inside Gaza.

Al-Bureij, Nuseirat and Khan Younis are three out of eight Palestinian refugee camps in Gaza that in normal times receive services from the U.N. Relief and Works Agency. The agency cares for Palestinians who fled or were driven from their homes during Israel's creation in 1948 and live in slum-like camps in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

South Africa asked the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Friday for an urgent order declaring that Israel was in breach of its obligations under the 1948 Genocide Convention in its crackdown against Hamas in Gaza.

It called on the court to issue short-term measures ordering Israel to stop its military campaign "to protect against further, severe and irreparable harm to the rights of the Palestinian people."

No date has been set for a hearing.

In a response, Israel's foreign ministry blamed Hamas for the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza by using them as human shields and stealing humanitarian aid from them. Hamas denies such accusations.


PALESTINIAN JOURNALIST KILLED


A Palestinian journalist working for Al-Quds TV was killed along with some of his family members in an air strike on their house in the Nuseirat camp in central Gaza Strip on Friday, health officials and fellow journalists said.

Gaza's government media office says 106 Palestinian journalists have been killed in the Israeli offensive.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said last week that the first 10 weeks of the Israel-Gaza war were the deadliest recorded for journalists, with the most journalists killed in a single year in one location.

Most of the journalists and media workers killed in the war were Palestinian. The report by the U.S.-based CPJ said it was "particularly concerned about an apparent pattern of targeting of journalists and their families by the Israeli military."

Earlier this month, a Reuters investigation found an Israeli tank crew killed a Reuters journalist, Issam Abdallah, and wounded six reporters in Lebanon on Oct. 13 by firing two shells in quick succession while the journalists were filming cross-border shelling.

Israel has previously said it has never and will never deliberately attack journalists and that it is doing what it can to avoid civilian casualties, but the high death toll has caused concern even amongst its staunchest allies.