Israeli war planes target critical infrastructure, homes and hospitals in Gaza as the brutal assault enters the ninth day.

Israel is targeting health facilities in besieged Gaza as the brutal assault enters a ninth day, displacing over 50,000 Palestinians.

The death toll stands at 217, including 63 children, with 1,400 people wounded, Gaza Health Ministry said on Tuesday.   

Gaza residents counted 60 Israeli strikes overnight. There were no immediate reports of casualties from the overnight strikes.

Gaza, under a long-standing Israeli blockade, is now facing critical shortages of food, medical supplies and fuel, with the UN asking for urgent support and access to provide much needed aid. 

Missile attacks on Ghazi Al Shawwa building in Rimal neighbourhood killed two people on Monday and damaged the office of Qatar's Red Crescent, officials said.

Al Remal clinic and the administrative building of the health ministry were also partially destroyed, Gaza officials said.

Al Remal clinic was Gaza's only Covid-19 laboratory. 

The Israeli military has pummelled Gaza with air strikes since May 10, leaving behind a massive trail of destruction across the seaside territory. Israel opened up an artillery warfront on Friday.

Over 42,000 displaced Palestinians have sought refuge in UN schools in Gaza, which was already struggling to cope with a coronavirus outbreak. 

Another 16,000 are with host families.

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Toll on health infrastructure

Hospitals in the poverty-stricken territory, which has been under Israeli blockade for almost 15 years, have been overwhelmed by patients.

Gaza Health Ministry spokesperson Ashraf Qidra said Israeli strikes "threaten to undermine the efforts of the health ministry in the face of the Covid pandemic".

The raids "stopped screening tests ... at the central laboratory", he added, referring to Al Remal.

The rate of positive coronavirus tests in Gaza has been among the highest in the world, at 28 percent.

Qatar and Turkey both condemned the attack on the Red Crescent office. 

The targeting of humanitarian and media institutions is a clear violation of international law, Qatar's foreign ministry said in a statement. 

“We invite the international community to step up their efforts to force Israel to end the indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force,” said Tanju Bilgic, a spokesperson at the Foreign Ministry.

Israeli air strikes and shelling have damaged at least 18 hospitals and clinics and entirely destroyed one health facility, the World Health Organization said in a new report.

Nearly half of all essential drugs in the territory have run out.

It said the bombing of key roads, including those leading to the main Al Shifa Hospital, has hindered the movement of ambulances and supply vehicles.

Sunday's strikes killed Dr Ayman Abu al Ouf, head of internal medicine at Al Shifa hospital who was also treating Covid-19 patients

READ MORE: Covid-19 surge in blockaded Gaza threatens to overwhelm hospitals

Matthias Schmale, UNRWA's Gaza director, gestures as he inspects the damage at UNRWA'S headquarters, in the aftermath of Israeli air strikes, in Gaza on May 18, 2021.
Matthias Schmale, UNRWA's Gaza director, gestures as he inspects the damage at UNRWA'S headquarters, in the aftermath of Israeli air strikes, in Gaza on May 18, 2021. (Reuters)

Humanitarian access to Gaza

Palestinian officials said Israel pledged to open its only cargo crossing with Gaza for several hours on Tuesday to allow humanitarian aid — including fuel, food and medicine — to enter. 

The Kerem Shalom crossing is the main entry point for goods entering the territory. 

Kerem Shalom lies south of Rafah, near Gaza's Israel and Egypt borders. 

The UN asked that a second location also be opened to allow humanitarian workers inside Gaza.

Jens Laerke, a spokesman for the UN humanitarian agency OCHA, urged Israel to open the Erez crossing near Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza.

However, Times of Israel reported Israeli authorities have not notified relevant officials of a decision on crossings. 

Egypt earlier opened its Rafah crossing for humanitarian purposes.

READ MORE: UN refugee agency: Israel displaces 42,000 in Gaza bombardment

'Death could come at any moment'

Israel's barrage of Gaza overnight set the dark sky ablaze over the crowded, coastal enclave as multiple strikes crashed into buildings shortly after midnight.

Gaza resident Roba Abu al Awf, 20, had braced for a rough night. "We have nothing to do but sit at home," she said. 

"Death could come at any moment, the bombing is crazy and indiscriminate."

Israeli fire has cratered roads and battered crucial infrastructure, causing blackouts and leading the electricity authority on Monday to warn it only had enough fuel left to provide power for another two to three days.

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Biden stops short of demanding truce

Tuesday's emergency UNSC session, the fourth since the conflict escalated, was called after the United States, a key Israel ally, blocked the adoption of a joint statement calling for a halt to the violence for the third time in a week on Monday.

US President Joe Biden, having resisted joining other world leaders and much of his own Democratic party in calling for an immediate end to hostilities, told Netanyahu on Monday night he backs a ceasefire but stopped short of demanding a truce.

The Biden administration has declined so far to publicly criticise Israel’s part in the fighting or send a top-level envoy to the region

Netanyahu told Israeli security officials late on Monday that Israel would “continue to strike targets” in Gaza “as long as necessary in order to return calm and security to all Israeli citizens.”

Biden's administration on Monday also approved the potential sale of $735 million worth of precision-guided weapons to Israel.

READ MORE: Israel's relentless bombardment of Gaza enters second week

Israel is also trying to contain inter-communal violence between Jews and Palestinians in Israel, as well as unrest in the occupied West Bank, where Palestinian authorities say Israeli forces have killed 20 Palestinians since May 10.

Israel’s attacks on Gaza follow spiking tensions in occupied Jerusalem during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

Israeli police deployed heavy-handed tactics against Palestinian worshippers in and around Al Aqsa Mosque in the last week of the holy month.

A major flashpoint in recent days has been a court case that could end with Palestinian families evicted from occupied East Jerusalem homes in Sheikh Jarrah claimed by Jewish settlers.

If the court rules for the settlers, Palestinians living in the neighbourhood would be displaced for a second time, the first was when they were moved into Sheikh Jarrah as refugees by Jordan in the 1950s.

Palestinians protesting in solidarity with the residents of Sheikh Jarrah have been targeted by Israeli forces.

Israel occupied East Jerusalem during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and annexed the entire city in 1980 – a move that has never been recognised by the international community.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies