Aid groups spoke of an “apocalyptic” humanitarian situation in the Palestinian territory, warning it is on the brink of being overwhelmed by disease and starvation.
In its latest update, the UN said that 1.93 million people – 78 per cent of Gaza’s population – are already internally displaced.
Hamas, which runs Gaza, said on Sunday that Israel had launched a series of “very violent raids” targeting Gaza’s main southern city of Khan Younis and the road from there to Rafah, near the border with Egypt.
A source close to Hamas and Palestinian militants Islamic Jihad told AFP both groups were involved in “fierce clashes” with Israeli forces on Sunday near Khan Younis.
Israel’s military on Sunday morning issued another set of instructions for people to evacuate inside the Gaza Strip.
The Israeli military has forbidden travel down the main north-south Salah al-Din road near the city of Khan Younis, describing it as “a battlefield”. Instead, it advises residents to detour via a coastal road if they are heading south.
On Saturday, Israel ordered residents out of the centre of Khan Younis, including parts of the city centre that had not been subject to such orders before, as it pounded the length of the territory.
The UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) said it had only been able to distribute aid in a very small part of southern Gaza “because of the intensity of the fighting and the bombardment since the humanitarian pause stopped”.
UNRWA’s deputy executive director, Carl Skau, said earlier: “About half the population in Gaza are starving ... The humanitarian operation is collapsing. With the chaos with this active fighting it’s not possible to do the work that is needed.”
In Gaza City in the Strip’s north, Agence France-Presse reported thousands were sheltering in the al-Shifa hospital, which is no longer functioning and partly destroyed following an Israeli raid last month.
Mediation efforts are continuing to secure a new Gaza ceasefire and free more hostages held by Hamas despite the ongoing Israeli bombardment that is “narrowing the window” for a successful outcome, Qatar’s prime minister said on Sunday.
“Our efforts as the state of Qatar along with our partners are continuing. We are not going to give up,” Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said, adding “the continuation of the bombardment is just narrowing this window for us”.
UN secretary general António Guterres has vowed he will not give up seeking a ceasefire in Gaza after the US wielded its veto to block the move at the security council on Friday.
Speaking at the Doha Forum in Qatar, Guterres did not directly criticise the United States in his address but said the security council is “paralysed by geostrategic divisions”.
He added world institutions “are weak and outdated, caught in a time warp reflecting a reality of 80 years ago”.
Mr Guterres spelled out why he had employed Article 99 of the UN Charter to use his extraordinary powers to force the security council to address the crisis in Gaza. “I urged the security council to press to avert a humanitarian catastrophe and I reiterated my appeal for a humanitarian ceasefire to be declared.
“Regrettably, the security council failed to do it, but that does not make it less necessary,” he said. “I will not give up.”
Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu applauded the United States for vetoing a UN security council resolution that called for a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza, where more than 17,700 Palestinians have been killed.
Mr Netanyahu said on Saturday: “I greatly appreciate the correct stance that the US has taken in the UN security council. Other countries need to understand that.”
US secretary of state Antony Blinken has continued to speak with counterparts from Saudi Arabia, Turkey and elsewhere amid open criticism of the US opposition to an open-ended truce.
At least 17,700 people, mostly women and children, have died in two months of fighting in Gaza, according to the latest figures from the enclave’s Hamas-run health ministry. – Guardian