Israeli airstrikes killed at least 78 people in Gaza overnight, despite authorities de-escalation announcement. Simultaneously, Hamas’s armed wing the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades fired 50 rockets toward Netivot in southern Israel, resulting in no casualties.

Israel pummelled southern Gaza on Tuesday, killing dozens, even as authorities announced the winding down of the intense phase of the war that has inflamed tensions across the Middle East.

The government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has come under mounting international pressure to end its offensive in Gaza launched in response to Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attacks.

But fears are mounting that the war could be widening, with Iran and its proxies stepping up attacks across the region in solidarity with Hamas, the Islamist movement that rules the Palestinian territory.

Al-Maghazi Refugee Camp in central Gaza Strip, on January 16, 2024. (AFP)

A wave of Israeli strikes killed at least 78 people in the Gaza Strip overnight, Hamas’s press office said. An AFP correspondent said the southern city of Khan Yunis was hit hard.

A barrage of 50 rockets was fired later toward Netivot in southern Israel, without causing any casualties, the army said. The attack was claimed by Hamas’s armed wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades.

At least 24,285 Palestinians, about 70 percent of them women, children, and adolescents, have been killed in Gaza in Israeli bombardments and ground operations since October 7, according to the Hamas government.

The army announced Tuesday the death of two more soldiers in Gaza, bringing the total number killed since its ground invasion began to 190.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday reiterated calls to stop the fighting. Israeli officials have repeatedly warned the fighting will go on for months.

Displaced Palestinians take shelter in a makeshift tent camp by the beach in Rafah near the border with Egypt in the southern Gaza Strip on January 16, 2024. (AFP)

The UN says the Israel-Hamas war has displaced roughly 85 percent of Gaza’s 2.4 million people, many of whom have been forced to crowd into shelters and struggle to get food, water, fuel, and medical care.

As temperatures plunge, families living in makeshift tents in the southern city of Rafah have resorted to burning plastic to ward off the chill, despite the noxious fumes.

“I pray every day that we will all be martyred. Death is better than this life,” said Abdul Karim Muhammad, a 29-year-old father of three whose family fled to Rafah from Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza.

Katrine Dige Houmøller, with AFP