GAZA, Nov 6 (Reuters) - U.N. agency leaders saying "enough is enough" demanded a humanitarian ceasefire on Monday nearly a month into Gaza's war, as the enclave's health authorities said dozens more people were killed in overnight attacks by Israeli fighter jets and troops.
Israel has rebuffed mounting international pressure for a ceasefire, saying hostages taken by Hamas militants during their rampage in southern Israel on Oct. 7 should be released first.
"An entire population is besieged and under attack, denied access to the essentials for survival, bombed in their homes, shelters, hospitals and places of worship. This is unacceptable," the U.N. chiefs said in a joint statement.
"We need an immediate humanitarian ceasefire. It's been 30 days. Enough is enough. This must stop now."
The 18 signatories include the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk, the head of the World Health Organization Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, and U.N. aid chief Martin Griffiths.
A Reuters journalist in the Gaza Strip described the overnight bombardment from the air, ground and sea as one of the most intense since Israel launched its offensive.
Health officials in Hamas-controlled Gaza said more than 9,770 Palestinians have been killed in the war since Hamas killed 1,400 people and seized more than 240 hostages on Oct. 7.
Israel, which says its forces have encircled Gaza City, faces mounting pressure over civilian casualties. A U.S. diplomatic blitz in the region is intended to reduce risks of the conflict escalating.
The health ministry in Gaza said dozens of people were killed by the Israeli air strikes in Gaza City and further south in Gaza neighbourhoods such as Zawaida and Deir Al-Balah. Hamas-affiliated Al-Aqsa TV quoted medical sources as saying at least 75 Palestinians were killed and 106 hurt in the attacks.
Palestinian health officials said eight people were killed in an air strike overnight on Gaza City's Rantissi cancer hospital. Israel's military said it was looking into the report.
The Israeli army said its strikes hit "tunnels, terrorists, military compounds, observation posts, and anti-tank missile launch posts". Ground troops killed several Hamas fighters while taking a militant compound containing observation posts, training areas and underground tunnels, it said.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Ankara, Turkey, November 6, 2023. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/Pool
Blinken in Turkey, CIA chief may visit Israel
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met Turkey's foreign minister in Ankara to discuss Gaza, hours after hundreds of people at a pro-Palestinian protest tried to storm an air base that houses U.S. troops in southern Turkey.
Blinken made an unannounced visit to the West Bank on Sunday to meet Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who joined international calls for an immediate ceasefire. Blinken reiterated U.S. concerns that a ceasefire could aid Hamas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ruled one out for now.
U.S. CIA Director William Burns was also set to visit Israel on Monday to discuss the war and intelligence with senior officials, the New York Times reported. Burns also will make stops in other Middle East countries, it quoted an unnamed U.S. official as saying.
The CIA did not respond to Reuters' request for comment.
Israel said 31 soldiers had been killed since it began expanded ground operations in Gaza on Oct. 27, fighting thousands of Hamas fighters who believe they can hold off Israel's advance from a warren of tunnels under the enclave.
Israel has called on civilians in north Gaza - the heart of Hamas' forces - to evacuate for their own safety and announced that it would enable free passage on a southbound highway for four hours every day.
However, U.N. monitoring showed that less than 2,000 did so on Sunday, citing fear, heavy damage to roads and lack of information due to limited communications, a U.N. humanitarian briefing said.
Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Conricus, an Israeli military spokesperson, showed reporters what he said was aerial footage of Hamas tunnels and rocket sites at two hospitals in northern Gaza, saying this showed Israel was not responsible for "what's happening now in northern Gaza".
A Hamas statement called on U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres to form a committee to visit Gaza hospitals to verify Israel's "false narrative" that Hamas uses hospitals as sites.
On average, a child is killed and two are injured every 10 minutes during the war, the U.N. relief agency for Palestinians said. The agency's shelters in south Gaza are overcrowded and unable to take new arrivals, and many displaced people are sleeping in the streets, the U.N. humanitarian office said.
Pro-Palestinian demonstrators light flares near the Turkish Foreign Ministry to protest against U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken's visit to Turkey, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Ankara, Turkey November 6, 2023. REUTERS/Cagla Gurdogan
Telecoms provider Paltel said services were resuming after they were disconnected from the Israeli side on Sunday.
U.S. Central Command, which covers the Middle East, said on X a nuclear missile submarine had arrived in the region - an unusual announcement seen by some analysts as a message to Iran, an Israeli foe.
People searched for victims or survivors at the Maghazi refugee camp in Gaza, where the health ministry said Israeli forces had killed at least 47 people in strikes early on Sunday.
"All night I and the other men were trying to pick the dead from the rubble. We got children, dismembered, torn-apart flesh," said Saeed al-Nejma, 53. Asked for comment, the Israeli military said it was gathering details.
In a separate attack, 21 Palestinians from one family were killed in strikes, the health ministry said. Israel's military declined to comment.
Reuters could not independently verify these accounts.
Tensions increased with Lebanon after an Israeli strike on a car in the south of the country killed three children and their grandmother, Lebanese authorities said.
Israel said it hit "terrorist targets of Hezbollah in southern Lebanon" in response to a missile attack against tanks that killed an Israeli citizen. Hezbollah said it responded by firing rockets at Kiryat Shmona town in northern Israel.