Israel pounded Gaza with more air strikes on Thursday, as British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak followed U.S. President Joe Biden on visits to demonstrate support for the war against Hamas while urging Israel to ease the plight of besieged Gazans.
Biden flew home on Wednesday night after an eight-hour trip having pledged to assist Israel's defense and consoled survivors of the Oct. 7 raid by Hamas gunmen who rampaged through southern Israel, killing 1,400 people.
But he appeared to have only limited success in his other mission, to persuade Israel to ease the plight of 2.3 million Gazans under a total siege.
Biden said he had secured an offer from Egypt to allow 20 aid trucks to reach Gaza in coming days, though a fraction of the 100 per day that U.N. aid chief Martin Griffiths told the Security Council were needed.
Two Egyptian security sources said equipment was sent on Thursday through the crossing to repair roads on the Gaza side for aid to cross.
More than 100 trucks were waiting on the Egyptian side although they were not expected to cross until Friday.
Before he left, Biden told Israelis in a speech: "While you
feel that rage, don't be consumed by it. After 9/11, we were enraged in the United States. And while we sought justice and got justice, we also made mistakes."
Later he told reporters aboard Air Force One: "Israel has been badly victimized but the truth is they have an opportunity to relieve suffering of people who have nowhere to go... it's what they should do."
Israel said it would allow limited aid to reach Gaza from Egypt provided none of it benefited Hamas. But it repeated its position that it will open its own checkpoints to let in aid only when all of the more than 200 hostages captured by the gunmen were set free.
And it made clear there would be no let-up in its bombing campaign: "In the Gaza Strip, every place where Hamas has touched or is touching will be struck and destroyed," a colonel identified as the commander of Israel's Ramat David air base told public broadcastrer Kan.
"We really are a war machine that knows how to do two or three times what is being done now."
Sunak landed in Tel Aviv hours after Biden left, carrying similar messages of support and condolence for Israelis.
"Above all, I'm here to express my solidarity with the
Israeli people. You have suffered an unspeakable, horrific act
of terrorism and I want you to know that the United Kingdom and I stand with you," Sunak told Israeli reporters after landing.
Inside Gaza health officials say bombing has so far killed nearly 3,500 people and wounded more than 12,000.
In Khan Younis, in the south of the Gaza Strip, an area of shops was reduced to rubble.
Rafat Al-Nakhala, who sought shelter after obeying Israel's order for civilians to flee Gaza City in the north, said nowhere was safe.
"I'm over 70 years old, I've lived through several wars, it's never been like this, it has never been this brutal, no religion and no conscience. Thank God. We only have hope in God, not in any Arab or Muslim country or anyone in the world, except for God.
Footage obtained by Reuters from the refugee camp in the north showed residents digging with their bare hands inside a damaged building to free a small boy and girl trapped under masonry.
The body of a man was hauled out of the ruins on a stretcher as residents tried to light up the site with torches on their mobile phones.
The United Nations says around half of Gazans have been made homeless, still trapped inside the enclave, one of the most