Israel is battling Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip's biggest cities, leaving hundreds more Palestinians dead as almost two million displaced Gazans struggle to find safe refuge amid critical shortages of food and shelter.
Residents on Thursday reported fierce battles going on east of Khan Younis, southern Gaza's largest city and Palestinian health officials said three Gazans were killed in an Israeli air strike on a house in Deir Al-Balah in central Gaza.
Israel said its forces killed a number of gunmen in Khan Younis, including two who emerged firing from a tunnel.
Israeli TV showed footage, which Reuters could not independently verify, of what it said were captured Hamas fighters, stripped to their underwear with heads bowed sitting in a Gaza City street.
Gazans have crammed into Rafah on the southern border with Egypt, heeding Israeli messages saying that they would be safe in the city after successive warnings to head south.
In Washington, a senior State Department official said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Israel's strategic affairs minister on Thursday, and told him Israel needs to do more to protect civilians in its offensive in southern Gaza.
Israeli troops reached the heart of Khan Younis on Wednesday in a new phase of the war, now entering its third month. Health officials said three people were killed there on Thursday.
Ambulances and relatives rushed the wounded into the city's Nasser hospital, but even the floor space inside was full. Two badly wounded children lay on a trolley and a bloodstained young boy lay screaming among the patients on the floor.
Those who escape violence face an increasingly desperate struggle to survive.
The United Natioms Palestinian Refugee Agency (UNRWA) said 1.9 million people - 85 per cent of Gaza's population - had been displaced and its shelters were four times over capacity.
The Gaza health ministry said 17,177 Palestinians had been killed and 46,000 wounded since October 7, when Israel began bombing Gaza in response to an assault by Hamas militants who control the enclave. In the past 24 hours alone, 350 people had been killed, ministry spokesman Ashraf Al-Qidra said.
Israel says it must wipe out Hamas and is doing everything possible to get civilians out of harm's way.
Israel said it had raided a Hamas compound in Jabalia, killing several gunmen and found tunnels, a training area and weapons.
The armed wing of Hamas said fighters had destroyed or damaged 79 army vehicles in Gaza City in the past three days but did not produce evidence.
The surprise Hamas incursion on October 7. killed 1200 people, with 240 people taken hostage, according to Israel's tally.
The Israeli military says 88 soldiers have been killed in ground incursions into Gaza that began on October 20.
The UN has been unable to distribute aid in any part of Gaza except for the area around Rafah for the past four days, it said in its daily humanitarian report on Thursday.
A senior Hamas official told Reuters mediators were still exploring opportunities for a truce and reiterated its demand that Israel cease its attacks but the White House said Israel and Hamas were not close to a deal on a humanitarian pause.
UN aid chief Martin Griffiths said on Thursday there were promising signs that the Kerem Shalom crossing in Israel could soon be opened to allow more humanitarian aid into Gaza.
A guided-missile attack from Lebanon killed a 60-year-old farmer in northern Israel on Thursday, Hagari said, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that Beirut would be turned "into Gaza" if Hezbollah, a Hamas ally, started an all-out war.
The White House said on Thursday that Israel and Hamas were not close to another deal on a new humanitarian pause and release of further Israeli hostages.
Australian Associated Press