Witnesses say Gaza airstrike struck as displaced gathered for soccer match

An Israeli missile struck a tent encampment in southern Gaza on Tuesday while displaced people had gathered to watch a football match at a school, witnesses reported on Wednesday. According to Palestinian officials, at least 29 people, mostly women and children, were killed in the strike. The incident occurred as spectators crowded the school grounds in Abassan, east of Khan Younis, where vendors were selling smoothies and biscuits.

Eyewitness Ghazzal Nasser, speaking from Abassan, described the scene: “They were watching a football match. There were injuries and deaths. I saw people thrown around, body parts scattered, and blood everywhere.”

The Israeli military stated it was reviewing reports of civilian casualties and clarified that it targeted a Hamas fighter involved in an earlier raid on October 7th that triggered the conflict, using what it described as precise munitions. There was no immediate comment from the military on whether they were aware of the football match when the strike was ordered.

Nearby at Nasser Hospital, mourners prepared for funerals and burials. Asmaa Qudeih, who lost relatives in the attack, recounted, “The schools were packed with people, and the street was bustling; then suddenly, a missile hit and devastated everything. Bodies and body parts were scattered, it was indescribable.”

Israeli forces continued their offensive in north and central Gaza on Wednesday, intensifying their presence in Gaza City districts. Residents reported house-to-house searches and tank shelling of homes.

Hamas warned that the Israeli campaign threatened ceasefire efforts in the nine-month-old war, with talks scheduled to resume in Doha. Leaflets were dropped over Gaza marking “safe routes” for evacuation.

The Israeli military confirmed ongoing operations against Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants, alleging they used UNRWA facilities as bases for attacks. They detailed a targeted raid following an evacuation corridor opening to civilians, resulting in clashes and the discovery of weapons.

The Palestinian Red Crescent reported receiving distress calls from trapped residents in Gaza City amid intense bombing. They condemned Israeli forces for targeting residential areas and displacing people from their homes and shelters.

In separate incidents, airstrikes in Al-Nuseirat killed six Palestinians, including children, while another strike in Khan Younis left two dead and several wounded. Health officials in Hamas-controlled Gaza stated more than 38,000 Palestinians have died since the conflict began, triggered by Hamas militants infiltrating southern Israel on October 7th, resulting in casualties and hostages taken back to Gaza.

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