THE Israeli military has ordered the evacuation of Gaza City, an early target of the war which is now seeing renewed fighting.

The military dropped leaflets on the city, calling on people to head south and saying: “Gaza City will remain a dangerous combat zone.”

The evacuation order could signal that Israel is expanding an incursion into the city, where it has been operating in several outlying neighbourhoods in recent days.

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Earlier on Wednesday, Israeli air strikes killed 20 Palestinians in central Gaza, including six children and three women, some of them inside a purported “safe zone” declared by the Israeli military, hospital authorities said.

The second straight night of deadly strikes in the central town of Deir al-Balah and nearby refugee camps came as US, Egyptian and Qatari mediators as well as Israeli officials met in the Qatari capital, Doha, for talks aimed at agreeing a long-elusive deal for a ceasefire and hostage release.

Israel and Hamas have appeared to narrow the gaps in recent days, but obstacles remain.

Strikes early on Wednesday hit three houses in the Nuseirat refugee camp, killing 12 people including five children, said authorities at al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital, where the casualties were taken.

The camp, like others around Gaza, was originally erected to house Palestinians driven from their homes during the 1948 war surrounding Israel’s creation. It has grown into an urban neighbourhood in the decades since.

A fourth strike early on Wednesday killed four men, three women and a child when it hit a home in Deir al-Balah, an area that is located within the “humanitarian safe zone” where Israel has told Palestinians to seek refuge as it carries out offensives in multiple parts of the Gaza Strip.

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The overnight bombardment came hours after Israeli warplanes struck the entrance of a school sheltering displaced families outside the southern city of Khan Younis.

The toll from the strike rose to 31 people killed, including eight children, and more than 50 wounded, officials at the nearby Nasser Hospital said on Wednesday.

Footage aired by Al-Jazeera television showed children playing football in the school’s yard when a sudden boom shook the area, prompting shouts of “a strike, a strike!”

The Israeli army said the air strike near the school and reports of civilian casualties are under review, and claimed it was targeting a Hamas militant who took part in the October 7 attack on Israel, though it provided no immediate evidence.

The military blames civilian deaths on Hamas because the militants fight in dense, urban areas. But the army rarely comments on what it is targeting in individual strikes, which often kill women and children.

In nine months of bombardment and offensives in Gaza, Israel has killed more than 38,200 people and wounded more than 88,000, according to the territory’s Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between combatants and civilians in its count.

Nearly the entire population have been driven from their homes. Many have been displaced multiple times, and hundreds of thousands are packed into sweltering tent camps.

Israel’s onslaught was triggered by Hamas’s cross-border raid on October 7, during which militants killed 1200 people in southern Israel, most of them civilians, according to Israeli authorities.

The militants took roughly 250 people hostage. Around 120 are still in captivity, with about a third said to be dead.