An Israeli airstrike ripped through a crowded marketplace in northern Gaza on Monday afternoon, killing dozens of people, according to a rescue worker.
The strike transformed a central shopping and transportation district in northern Gaza’s Jabaliya refugee camp into a scene of unrecognizable devastation. Videos shared on social media and distributed by Palestinian news agencies show bodies strewn amid the detritus of what moments earlier had been a busy market selling produce and other goods.
Broken concrete and twisted metal from the surrounding buildings filled the square, where people rushed through the rubble and clouds of smoke searching for survivors. As a fire burned on the edge of the square, a policeman, bloodied and covered in dust, sat off to its side.
“Is he dead? Is he dead?” a man was heard yelling in one video.
Sixty people died in the strike, according to a paramedic with the Red Crescent who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press. There was no immediate confirmation from the Gazan Health Ministry.
Many Gazans fleeing other parts of the blockaded enclave had come to seek shelter in central Jabaliya, where shops and homes surround the market area. The strikes hit as vendors and customers packed the marketplace, stocking up on food and produce amid widespread fears that Israeli airstrikes will intensify.
Israel has been pounding the Gaza Strip since Saturday, when militants from the small coastal enclave mounted a shock cross-border assault by land, sea and air. The Gazan Health Ministry said on Monday that at least 560 Palestinians have been killed since then and nearly 3,000 others wounded — though it was not clear how many of the casualties were involved in the surprise attack on Israel or from the retaliatory Israeli airstrikes that followed.
The ministry has said that Israeli airstrikes have killed at least 78 children and 41 women, in some cases killing entire families.
“The Israelis have lost their minds,” said Raji Sourani, a lawyer with the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights in Gaza, adding: “They are annihilating entire families.”
Israel says it is targeting centers of Hamas operations. It has confirmed hitting several mosques, saying it was targeting Hamas infrastructure or militants inside the buildings. The United Nations and Palestinian officials have said that at least two hospitals and multiple homes also have been hit, and many Gazans say they have nowhere to go to escape the onslaught of Israeli strikes.
Israel’s defense minister on Monday announced a “complete siege” of Gaza, saying “no electricity, no food, no water, no fuel” would be allowed in. The enclave has already been under a suffocating 16-year blockade, imposed by Israel and backed by Egypt, which limits what comes into Gaza and prevents most people from leaving.
Strikes hit four mosques in the Shati refugee camp on Monday, toppling their domes in attacks that the Gazan authorities said had killed people worshiping inside.
On Monday afternoon, neighbors were combing the rubble of the Sousi mosque, which was nearly unrecognizable as a place of worship. Witnesses said boys had been playing soccer outside the mosque when the strike hit.
Sumaya Ghabin, 30, was shaken awake at around 6 a.m. by the boom of an Israeli strike hitting the Gharbia mosque, which is about two blocks away from her home and also near the Sousi mosque.
“We woke up and find the house all dust and shrapnel,” she said. The windows had been blown out, she added, and her 10-year-old daughter was hiding under the covers screaming.