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Red Cross says it has sent a surgery team into Gaza, as a rocket strike hits Tel Aviv

On Friday in the Gaza city of Khan Younis, people collect the bodies of Palestinians killed in airstrikes.
Ahmad Hasaballah
Getty Images
On Friday in the Gaza city of Khan Younis, people collect the bodies of Palestinians killed in airstrikes.

Updated October 27, 2023 at 11:35 AM ET

TEL AVIV, Israel — A bit of relief trickled in Friday to Gaza, which has been rocked by weeks of Israeli bombings and choked by a blockade. The International Committee of the Red Cross says it sent a war surgery team and other experts into the embattled Palestinian territory, along with six trucks ferrying medical supplies and water purification tools.

"Our surgical team and medical supplies will help relieve the extreme pressure on Gaza's doctors and nurses," said Fabrizio Carboni, the ICRC's regional director. "But safe, sustained humanitarian access is urgently needed."

"This humanitarian catastrophe is deepening by the hour," he added.

Essential supplies such as fuel, electricity and clean water have been perilously scarce in Gaza, where more than 2.2 million people live. The first shipment of aid was allowed to enter last weekend, at the Rafah crossing near Gaza's border with Egypt.

"Current stocks are almost completely exhausted, forcing life-saving services to come to a halt," according to the U.N. Palestinian refugee agency, UNRWA. "This includes the supply of piped water as well as fuel for the health sector, bakeries, and generators."

The medical need is dire: Violence has injured 17,439 people in Gaza, UNRWA says, and another 1,600 are reported missing, including 900 children. Many of them are presumed to be trapped under the rubble of buildings.

Israel's ambassador to the U.S., Michael Herzog, told NPR on Fridaythat his country's attacks aren't acts of rage, saying the military is pursuing a strategy targeting Hamas.

"We are preparing a ground operation which is designed to uproot them and their military infrastructure in Gaza," Herzog said. "And we believe it's achievable."

While the Israeli military is planning for a full-scale invasion, the timeline for when it might start is unclear.

Palestinian officials post the names of people killed in Gaza

Palestinian officials have released a list of more than 6,700 names of what they describe as Palestinians killed in Gaza since the outbreak of war with Israel earlier this month.

The list of names and corresponding identification numbers from Gaza's Ministry of Health came late Thursday in response to comments from President Biden casting doubt on the Palestinian death toll. In total, officials in Gaza say that 7,028 have been killed so far, but several hundred have not yet been identified.

Israel has pummeled Gaza ever since Hamas, the militant group that governs the territory, unleashed a day of violence on Israeli communities near its border on Oct. 7, attacking soldiers and civilians in a rampage that Israel says left 1,400 people dead. Nearly 230 hostages continue to be held by Hamas.

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby later said the White House did not dispute reports that thousands of Palestinians had been killed.

"We absolutely know that the death toll continues to rise in Gaza," Kirby said in a briefing. "But what we're saying is, you shouldn't rely on numbers put forth by Hamas."

The list of the dead could not be independently verified. With Gaza's borders closed, it is impossible for foreign journalists to verify information. The health ministry is run in coordination with the internationally-backed Palestinian Authority, and its numbers are produced in connection with hospitals in Gaza. The ministry's numbers are seen as credible by humanitarian organizations and are widely cited, including by the U.S. State Department.

Israel has ramped up its attacks on Gaza

Over the past week, Israel has sent troops into Gaza for raids on what they describe as Hamas military infrastructure. The ground troops were accompanied by airstrikes and artillery shelling, officials said, and several of the raids have included tanks.

On Thursday, Israel announced it had killed Shadi Barud, a top Hamas intelligence official who Israel described as one of the two architects behind the Oct. 7 assault, alongside Yahya Sinwar, the Palestinian leader of Hamas in Gaza.

An overview of a destroyed building following Israeli bombardment of Khan Younis overnight into Friday.
Mahmud Hams / AFP via Getty Images
AFP via Getty Images
An overview of a destroyed building following Israeli bombardment of Khan Younis overnight into Friday.

Overall, Israel has increased the intensity of its attacks on Gaza, some days conducting hundreds of airstrikes on the 25-mile-long territory.

The increased pace of strikes has terrified Palestinians living in Gaza.

"Last night was just horrible. Every second and every minute there was continuous bombing," said Shaimaa Ahed on Thursday. The 20-year-old engineering student has been documenting her experience during the conflict for the Institute for Middle East Understanding, a U.S.-based non-profit that seeks to give voice to Palestinians.

The home where Ahed is staying is so full of dirt and gunpowder, she said, that everyone inside takes turns wearing a mask with a wet cloth held over it, hoping to avoid breathing in unhealthy air.

As she spoke, multiple explosions could be heard striking nearby.

"To be honest, I'm not OK. I'm alive, yes, but I'm physically and mentally drained, and so are all the people of the Gaza strip," she said. "If it wasn't for our faith and religion, we would have completely broken down."

Israelis evacuate, and a rare strike hits Tel Aviv

Israeli officials say they have warned Israelis who have evacuated from areas near the fighting that they could be away from their homes for months.

"This is a long haul. This is not just another round with Gaza. This is something much bigger," Lt. Col. Richard Hecht, a military spokesperson, told NPR Thursday.

A quarter million Israelis have been displaced from their homes in Israel's north and south, officials say, about half of them voluntarily and half of them under government supervision.

Under evacuation orders are towns near the border of the Gaza Strip, an area known as the Gaza Envelope, and towns along Israel's northern border with Lebanon, where violence with Hezbollah has increased over the last few weeks.

In Tel Aviv — a major city where many evacuees have come — a rare rocket strike rattled residents Friday afternoon. Emergency medic officials reported three injuries and no deaths. Hamas claimed credit for the attack shortly after.

Onlookers stand behind a car that was damaged at the rare rocket strike in Tel Aviv on Friday.
/ Claire Harbage/NPR
Claire Harbage/NPR
Onlookers stand behind a car that was damaged at the rare rocket strike in Tel Aviv on Friday.

Since Oct. 7, Hamas has fired more than 7,000 rockets at Israel, Israeli officials say. Most have been intercepted by the anti-rocket defense system known as the Iron Dome, but some have landed. At least 11 Israelis have been killed in rocket strikes, Israel says.

The Friday rocket, one out of several barrages on Tel Aviv throughout the day, hit an apartment building on the city's southeast side and caused significant damage to the building's upper floors. Within minutes of the strike, the street had filled with first responders, soldiers, journalists and onlookers curious for a glimpse of the damage.

First responders at the site of a rare rocket strike in Tel Aviv that hit a residential building.
/ Claire Harbage/NPR
Claire Harbage/NPR
First responders at the site of a rare rocket strike in Tel Aviv that hit a residential building.

"This is the reality we're facing now. It's much more constant," said Eden Ringel, an American Israeli woman who said she came to the scene because her boyfriend, a first responder, had been called in.

"If we didn't have the Iron Dome and the U.S.'s help, Israel would look exactly the same [as Gaza], if not worse," she said.

Becky Sullivan reported from Tel Aviv, Israel. Bill Chappell is based in Washington, D.C. Greg Myre contributed reporting in Tel Aviv. contributed to this story

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Becky Sullivan has reported and produced for NPR since 2011 with a focus on hard news and breaking stories. She has been on the ground to cover natural disasters, disease outbreaks, elections and protests, delivering stories to both broadcast and digital platforms.
Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.