Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip have gone “beyond the scope of self-defense”, the Chinese foreign minister has declared, as the looming possibility of an Israeli ground attack threatens to endanger civilians further. Palestinians caught in the fighting.

Protecting “the basic needs of the people of Gaza” is a priority, and “China opposes and condemns all acts that harm civilians,” said Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi during a call with the Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs. Foreign Affairs, Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, in statements reported by the Chinese media.

It has been over a week since Hamas militants launched a large-scale attack by land, sea and air against Israel. The fighters swept through Israeli villages near the Gaza Strip, killing civilians and taking hostages in the besieged enclave. It was the deadliest attack by Palestinian militants in Israel’s history.

Israel then launched widespread airstrikes against Hamas-controlled territory west of southern Israel. The Israel Defense Forces have claimed that the thousands of bombs dropped on the strip of land have targeted the extensive network of tunnels under Gaza, used by Hamas to coordinate attacks against Israel.

Hamas uses about 480 kilometers, or 300 miles, of tunnels under Gaza, according to the American think tank Institute for the Study of War.

An estimated 2.3 million people live in the densely populated Gaza Strip, many of whom are civilians who have already endured days of Israeli siege and blockade of key supplies such as food, water and medicine. Hospitals in Gaza have been overwhelmed, and a spokesperson for the area’s health authorities stated on Sunday morning that 70% of northern Gaza and Gaza City residents do not have access to health services.

According to the Gaza Ministry of Health, 2,329 people have died in Gaza since October 7. More than 1,300 Israelis have been killed in the eight days of fighting, the “overwhelming majority” of them civilians, the Associated Press reported Sunday.

China warns that Israel has gone beyond self-defense in war.

“We oppose acts that harm civilians and violate international law,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said on Friday. “We are committed to promoting peace talks and achieving a ceasefire and will continue to work towards de-escalation and resumption of peace talks.”

On Sunday morning, the Israeli military said its forces would not carry out operations along a specific route from northern Gaza to the southern strip between 10 am and 1 pm local time. “During this window, take the opportunity to move south from northern Gaza,” the IDF said in a statement.

“Rest assured, Hamas leaders have already guaranteed your safety and that of your families,” the IDF said.

Israel had previously warned more than a million residents of northern Gaza to move south, something the United Nations said may be “simply impossible.”

Hamas representatives said on Sunday that the Palestinian group had launched rocket attacks on the southern Israeli city of Sderot “in response to attacks on civilians.” Hamas also attacked several settlements near the Gaza border, the representatives said.

On Sunday, at 7:00 a.m. local time (12:00 ET), an IDF spokesperson stated that rockets had been fired overnight at Tel Aviv and southern Israel and that fighting continued around the northern Gaza Strip.

The IDF continues to “attack various military targets belonging to Hamas,” said Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus. He added that Israel is preparing for the “next phase” of operations.

Israeli authorities have not yet launched the expected ground attack on Gaza but have been building forces around its border for several days.

Ellie Cook