This article contains graphic images.
The first light of day in Khan Younis, a city in the southern Gaza Strip, reveals scenes of horror: incinerated buildings, families buried under the rubble.
Many Palestinians had fled south, on Israel’s order, believing it to be safer than the north.
But by early Tuesday, Khan Younis had been hit again by Israeli airstrikes, killing and injuring many and destroying buildings. Israel said it had struck Hamas targets in the area.
That morning, the Gazan photographers Yousef Masoud and Samar Abu Elouf bore witness to the aftermath.
Palestinians searching through the rubble of a destroyed building in Khan Younis.Credit…Yousef Masoud for The New York Times
Israel told approximately one million civilians on Friday to evacuate northern Gaza to areas like Khan Younis. The line of demarcation was Wadi Gaza, a strip of wetlands that stretches latitudinally across the territory.
Khan Younis is well south of that marker, but the area has seen numerous airstrikes, even as it struggles to accommodate Gazans fleeing the north. Satellite images showed damage from airstrikes around the southern Gaza Strip that was not as extensive as in the northern part, but still significant.
Photographs taken in and around Khan Younis on Monday and Tuesday show a desperate struggle to survive in Gaza, where about half the population are children and teenagers. These images were taken before the explosion on Tuesday near the Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City, north of the demarcation line, which, Palestinian officials said, killed hundreds.
Many of those displaced from northern Gaza crowded into hospitals and schools in the south. Others were hosted by friends and relatives already struggling to find enough food and water for themselves.
Foreign journalists have been unable to enter the territory. The enclave, 140 square miles, is home to more than two million people, most of them refugees from earlier wars.
Water, food, fuel and electricity are scarce. Israel has pledged to continue its siege of Gaza, which came after a deadly cross-border attack by Hamas on Oct. 7 and on top of a yearslong blockade of the territory by Israel and Egypt.
The images the Gazan photographers took in Khan Younis show a sliver of what Gaza as a whole is experiencing: intense bombardment that has reduced buildings to rubble and killed many civilians, people sleeping in the streets and lining up for water and bread, and families left to mourn the loss of life. The Gazan Health Ministry says that more than 3,780 people have been killed and thousands more injured.
The United Nations agency that distributes aid to Palestinians said that 14 of its personnel had been killed as of Thursday. Many of its staff members were also displaced.
The U.N. agency said that tensions were building at its shelters amid the chaos and need. Many shelters had no water, and health risks from contaminated water and poor sanitation were growing, it said. Hospitals have said they are running out of medicine and supplies.
Israel had kept its border crossings closed, and hope for the arrival of humanitarian aid has been focused entirely on the Rafah crossing on Gaza’s southern border with Egypt. Diplomats and officials said they had been trying to negotiate the delivery of shipments for days.
The talks continued. The aid that has already arrived remained marooned on the Egyptian side of the border. Families — including many with foreign passports — remained on the Gazan side, unable to leave.
With little electricity available, broad swaths of the territory remained in the dark, and people fearfully glance toward the sky. The bombing often intensifies at night.
Municipal services like garbage collection have ceased in Khan Younis amid the airstrikes.
But even with the danger of bombs falling on the darkened city, a vendor emerged to sell food from a cart for hungry residents.