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Israel strikes Gaza’s Jabalya refugee camp

Originally Published: 31 OCT 23 13:27 ET

Updated: 31 OCT 23 14:54 ET

By Kareem Khadder and Abeer Salman, CNN

Jerusalem (CNN) — An Israeli strike targeting a Hamas commander in the densely populated Jabalya refugee camp in northern Gaza has left catastrophic damage and killed a large number of people, according to eyewitnesses and medics in the enclave.

“I was waiting in line to buy bread when suddenly and without any prior warning seven to eight missiles fell,” an eyewitness, Mohammad Ibrahim, told CNN.

“There were seven to eight huge holes in the ground, full of killed people, body parts all over the place,” he said. “It felt like the end of the world.”

Lt. Col. Richard Hecht of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) told CNN that the airstrike was targeting a Hamas commander, whom he accused of “hiding, as they do, behind civilians.” Civilian deaths, Hecht also said, are “the tragedy of war.”

Hamas however has strongly denied the presence of one of its leaders in camp, Hazem Qassem, a spokesman for the group said in a statement Tuesday.

At the Indonesian hospital, the nearest major medical facility to Jabalya, videos showed a long line of bodies lying on the floor of the hospital as well as large numbers of wounded people, including children, as doctors rushed to treat their injuries. Many of the injured could be seen receiving treatment on the floor because of the hospital’s overcrowded conditions. Hospital head Dr. Atef al-Kalhout estimated that scores had been killed in the blast.

“What you see is a scene no one can imagine: injured martyrs, charred bodies in the hundreds,” said another doctor, Mohammad al Rann. “All we can do is keep taking them in. Most of the injuries are from explosives and head injuries and amputations.”

According to the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Interior in Gaza, twenty homes were “completely destroyed” in the bombing. Photos of the site showed multiple large craters in the ground, surrounded by the rubble of destroyed and damaged buildings.

Hecht, the IDF spokesperson, said the area is “a very complicated battle space” where there “could be infrastructure there, tunnels there.”

Egypt condemned on Tuesday in the “strongest terms” what it called the “inhuman Israeli targeting of the residential area of Jabalya camp,” the country’s foreign ministry said in a statement, and accused Israel of breaking international law.

“Egypt considered this as a new flagrant violation by the Israeli forces against the provisions of international law and international humanitarian law,” the ministry said.

This story is developing and is being updated.

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