Central Gaza
Palestinians sit by a damaged building surrounded by rubble at al-Bureij camp in the central Gaza Strip on Sunday AFP

Israeli forces carried out deadly strikes Tuesday on southern Gaza and battled militants after the army again ordered Palestinians to leave areas near the besieged territory's border with Israel and Egypt.

Witnesses reported intense bombing and shelling around Khan Yunis, southern Gaza's main city from which Israeli forces withdrew in early April after a devastating months-long battle.

A hospital source in the city said shelling killed eight people and wounded more than 30 others.

The bombardment came after a rocket barrage at southern Israel claimed by the militant group Islamic Jihad, which has fought alongside Hamas.

This was followed by an order to evacuate most areas east of the cities of Khan Yunis and Rafah, including the towns of Al-Qarara and Bani Suhaila.

Bani Suhaila resident Ahmad Najjar said the Israeli order has spurred "fear and extreme anxiety", and "there is a large displacement of residents".

Six consecutive days of intense battles followed a similar evacuation order issued last week for the Gaza City district of Shujaiya.

An AFP correspondent reported artillery shelling in the northern area on Tuesday, and witnesses said gun battles raged on.

The military said its forces were operating in Shujaiya, central Gaza and Rafah, where aircraft carried out strikes and troops "ambushed an armed terrorist squad" in a car and killed them.

In Shujaiya, Palestinian militants "were eliminated and dozens of terrorist infrastructure sites above and below ground were dismantled, including tunnel shafts", it added.

In central Gaza, witnesses said strikes hit the Nuseirat refugee camp where the Palestinian Red Crescent reported at least one dead, a child.

Other parts of the Gaza Strip were reeling from continued fighting nearly nine months into the war, sparked by Hamas's October 7 attack on Israel.

Months of on-and-off talks towards a truce and hostage release deal have meanwhile made little progress, even after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently declared that the "intense phase" of the war was winding down.

"We've heard the Israelis talk about a significant downshift in their operations in Gaza," US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday.

"It remains to be seen."

The latest order to leave parts of southern Gaza follows an evacuation of Rafah nearly two months ago which had signalled the start of a long-feared Israeli ground offensive.

The fighting since then has again uprooted many Palestinians and led to the closure of a key aid crossing.

The United Nations and relief agencies have voiced alarm over the dire humanitarian crisis and the threat of starvation the war and Israeli siege have brought for Gaza's 2.4 million people.

Hamas's October 7 attack on southern Israel that triggered the war resulted in the deaths of 1,195 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures.

The militants also seized 251 hostages, 116 of whom remain in Gaza including 42 the army says are dead.

Israel's retaliatory offensive aimed at eradicating the Palestinians militants in Gaza has killed at least 37,900 people, also mostly civilians, according to data from the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.

Israeli authorities on Monday released Mohammed Abu Salmiya, director of Gaza City's Al-Shifa hospital -- the territory's largest medical complex -- along with dozens of other detainees returned to Gaza for treatment.

Speaking after his release, Abu Salmiya said he had suffered "severe torture" during his detention.

"Several inmates died in interrogation centres and were deprived of food and medicine," he said.

Israel has accused Hamas of using Al-Shifa and other hospitals as a cover for military operations, claims Gaza militants have rejected.

Netanyahu, who has faced growing anger from protesters over his handling of the conflict as well as pressure from hardline coalition partners, criticised the release which he said had been made without his knowledge.

The Israeli premier said Abu Salmiya belongs "in prison" because Israeli hostages were "murdered and held" in the now ravaged hospital he runs.

Successive Israeli raids have reduced large parts of Al-Shifa to rubble.

The director's return to Gaza was "a serious mistake and a moral failure", Netanyahu said.

According to Abu Salmiya, Israel brought no charges against him during his seven-month detention.

Israel's Shin Bet domestic security agency said the release was "to free up places in detention centres".

Those freed "represent a lesser danger" and were not directly involved in attacks on Israeli civilians, it said.

In the Israeli city of Tel Aviv on Monday, thousands attended an event calling for an end to the war and "a better reality" for Israelis and Palestinians, according to activist Ibrahim Abu Ahmad.

"At any moment, we can start making peace," said Israeli historian and author Yuval Noah Harari.

"We have already tried to make peace, and we weren't good at it. So what? We aren't that successful at making war either, and that doesn't stop us from trying... It's time to try peace again."