Israel pummels Gaza as 500 Palestinian children confirmed dead

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James Mates reports on the latest developments as fighting between Israel and Hamas continues into its sixth day

  • The death toll from the six-day conflict has surpassed 2,700 on both sides, with more than 1,500 Palestinians, and at least 1,300 Israelis killed since Saturday. Thousands more have been injured.

  • Egypt and the United Nations (UN) are working to establish a humanitarian corridor to Gaza, while the US is in 'active talks' over creating a safe passage for civilians to escape.

  • The first UK repatriation flight out of Israel was due to leave on Thursday evening. It has not gone ahead, confirmed the British Government.

  • The Israeli Embassy in London has said it understands that at least 100 people are believed to have travelled from the UK to Israel to serve in its military.

  • Israel says Gaza will receive no fuel, food, water or electricity until Hamas releases its hostages, as charities warn there are just hours worth of fuel left.

  • The Israeli military says it has dropped 6,000 bombs on Gaza.

As Israel continues to pummel Gaza with at least 6,000 bombs, children are fast becoming some of the worst affected on both sides of the conflict.

So far, 500 Palestinian children have been killed in the deadly attacks and they make up more than half of the wounded patients in Gaza's overwhelmed hospitals.

Israeli children are also among the more than 150 kidnapped by Hamas militants on Saturday, or killed at their hands.

The UN's world food programme has called the situation in Gaza "devastating", after Israel halted deliveries of food, water, fuel and electricity to Gaza's 2.3 million people and prevented entry of supplies from Egypt. 

“Without electricity, hospitals risk turning into morgues,” warned Fabrizio Carboni, regional director of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

When power runs out, it puts "newborns in incubators and elderly patients on oxygen at risk. Kidney dialysis stops, and X-rays can’t be taken,” he said.

Gaza's largest hospital told ITV News it is full and can't take any more new patients, while their generator only has a few days of power left.

ITV News was taken inside Gaza's largest hospital, which is so overwhelmed critical care is being conducted on corridor floors, as Rebecca Barry reports

Dr Ghassan Abu-Sittah, a British surgeon who flew over from London over the weekend, told ITV News: "The situation here is just a few days from breaking point. The ferocity and the number of those injured has been shocking.

"The hospital is overrun with patients. There are wounded sleeping in the corridors now.

"We don't have the capacity to take the wounded that need to go to the operating rooms anymore."

Its morgue overflowed on Thursday, as bodies came in faster than relatives could claim them on the sixth day of Israel's heavy aerial bombardment on the territory of 2.3 million people.

'Death was a blessing' says a father when he learnt his daughter was killed by Hamas, while ITV News' John Ray speaks to another father in Tel Aviv who does not know the fate of his missing daughter

The cut-off of supplies has also caused dire water shortage for over 650,000 people, according to the UN.

“Not a single electricity switch will be flipped on, not a single faucet will be turned on, and not a single fuel truck will enter until the Israeli hostages are returned home,” Israeli Energy Minister Israel Katz said on social media on Thursday.

Hamas responded to Israel's warning, saying it would execute the hostages if Israel targeted people in Gaza without warning.

So far, 6,000 bombs have been dropped on Gaza, the Israeli government said on Thursday evening.

There are fears illegal white phosphorus, which causes "excruciating burns", was used in the offensive, Human Rights Watch said.

The charity claims Israel used the substance, which is illegal to use in populated areas, in military operations in Gaza and Lebanon, putting civilians at risk of serious and long-term injuries.

As many as 150 hostages, including Israeli army officers, were taken into Gaza during Saturday’s surprise attack.

One father, waited two days before receiving news that Emily had been murdered, but surprisingly, his reaction was one of relief.

“They just said we found Emily, she's dead and I went, 'yes'. I went, 'yes' and smiled because that is the best news of the possibilities that I knew," Mr Hand told CNN.

"That was the best, possibly that I was hoping for. She was either dead or in Gaza. And if you know anything about what they do to people in Gaza, that is worse than death.

“That is worse than death. The way they treat you. They'd have no food, they'd have no water.

"She'd be in a dark room filled with Christ knows how many people and terrified every minute, hour, day and possible years to come. So, death was a blessing, an absolute blessing."

Repatriating British nationals and the UK response

A flight promised by the UK government to take British nationals out of Israel on Thursday evening, has not gone ahead.

An Foreign Office spokesperson told ITV News: “This is a fluid situation, and we are currently working to ensure the flight can proceed as soon as possible.”

ITV News Political Correspondent Harry Horton explains how the government plans to get British nationals home from Israel

The announcement of an evacuation flight came after the Foreign Office said it is "temporarily" withdrawing the families of British diplomats working in Israel.

Meanwhile, Rishi Sunak has deployed UK military assets to the eastern Mediterranean to support Israel.

Downing Street said maritime patrol and surveillance aircraft will begin flying in the region from Friday to track threats to regional stability, including monitoring activity such as the “transfer of weapons to terrorist groups”.

A Royal Navy task group will be moved to the eastern Mediterranean next week as a contingency measure to support humanitarian efforts.

Mr Sunak said: “We must be unequivocal in making sure the types of horrific scenes we have seen this week will not be repeated. Alongside our allies, the deployment of our world-class military will support efforts to ensure regional stability and prevent further escalation.

“Our military and diplomatic teams across the region will also support international partners to re-establish security and ensure humanitarian aid reaches the thousands of innocent victims of this barbaric attack from Hamas terrorists.”

Since the weekend’s assault on Israel, there has been a 400% spike in antisemitic incidents in the UK, according to charity Community Security Trust (CST).

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has announced £3 million in extra funding to protect schools, synagogues and other Jewish community buildings in the UK in response.

The money will be given to CST, which acts on the behalf of British Jews on matters of policing and racism.

'Strikes on Syria' and Gaza 'ground manoeuvre'

Syria has reported Israeli airstrikes have targeted the airports of the capital city Damascus and the northern city of Aleppo, damaging their runways.

The country's pro-government media Al-Watan Daily and Dama Post said the airports are shut, but gave no further details.

This is the first reported Israeli strikes on Syria since Hamas carried out its deadly attacks on Saturday.

Israeli tanks are stationed near the border with Lebanon. Credit: AP

However, Britain-based pro-opposition war monitor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said no military shipments have reached the airports in the hours before the bombing.

It comes as an Israeli military spokesman said on Thursday a 300,000-strong reservists force, near the border with Gaza, "are preparing for a ground manoeuvre if decided" - but no final decision has yet been made.

The Israeli Embassy in London has said it understands that at least 100 "reservists and active duty soldiers" are believed to have travelled from the UK to Israel to serve in its military.

Air strikes in Gaza. Credit: AP

US pledges support for Israel

The US government will begin evacuation flights to help Americans leave Israel from Friday, United States whose Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken has said.

He flew in for talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday.

The US joins a number of countries who have pledged their support for Israel.

"You may be strong enough on your own to defend yourselves, but as long as America exists you will never have to," Mr Blinken said after meeting with Mr Netanyahu.

He added: "We will always be there by your side."

Mr Blinken will also meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Jordan, during his overseas visit.

The Gaza Strip is located between Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea. Credit: ITV News

Israel targets 'network of tunnels' in Gaza

The UN has said more than 330,000 people have been displaced in Gaza since Israel began its retaliatory strikes.

A spokesman for the IDF said airstrikes are now being focused on a network of underground tunnels, which have been built and populated by Hamas.

Jonathan Conricus said: "What Hamas has done since they took control almost 20 years ago was to build a network of tunnels from Gaza City and under Gaza City all the way down to Khan Yunis and Rafah."

He explained that the Gaza Strip should be categorised into two separate layers - one which is occupied by civilians at ground level and a second underground layer for Hamas.

"What we are trying to do now is get to that second layer that Hamas has built," he added.

Asked what Israel is doing to alleviate the impact of airstrikes on Gaza's residents, Israeli President Isaac Herzog said his country is working "according to the rules and international law".

"First of all, we have to understand there's a state, there's a state in a way that has built a machine of evil right at our doorstep," he told ITV News International Affairs Editor Rageh Omaar.

"There's an entire nation that is responsible. It's not true. This rhetoric about civilians were not aware, not involved, it's absolutely not true. They could have risen up, they could have fought against that evil regime, which took over Gaza in a coup d'état."

Israel President Isaac Herzog told ITV News International Affairs Editor Rageh Omaar it is 'operating militarily according to the rules and international law'

He added: "We are operating militarily according to the rules and international law. Period. Unequivocally.

"But we're at war. We are at war, we are defending our homes, we're protecting our homes. That's the truth. And when a nation protects its home it fights and we will fight until we break their backbone."

Large parts of the Jabaliya refugee camp have been reduced to rubble, with drone footage revealing the scale of the destruction

The government will not pass any laws or make any decisions that do not concern the conduct of the war, a statement said.

Hamas has taken an estimated 150 people captive since its weekend attack and has threatened to kill hostages if Israel targets civilians in Gaza without warning.

ITV News understands that 17 British citizens are feared dead or missing since the violence began.

How will Israel respond to the Hamas massacre in its border village? After witnessing the horrors, John Ray tells Rageh Omaar what you need to know...