Palestinians fleeing to the southern Gaza Strip on an “evacuation route” the Israeli army said would be safe were killed in an air strike, witnesses and Hamas officials said Saturday. Israeli forces have pummelled the long-blockaded Gaza Strip with deadly air strikes and artillery fire since a massive Hamas onslaught in southern Israel on October 7. In a Friday statement, the Israeli army’s Arabic-language spokesman Avichay Adraee called on Gazans to head south of Wadi Gaza, a river cutting through the centre of the strip, “for your safety”. He said a safe “evacuation route” would not be targeted by Israeli forces before 8:00 pm (1700 GMT) on Friday. Hamas officials, however, said several people were killed while heading south before the 8:00 pm deadline, and on Saturday a witness told AFP that “a truck carrying dozens of families was bombed near Wadi Gaza”. AFP was unable to independently verify the claims that the deaths were caused by an Israeli strike. According to official statements from Hamas’s health ministry and government media office, dozens of civilians heading to safety were killed in at least three locations Friday afternoon. AFP was able to confirm that footage circulated on social media that matches witnesses’ claims appeared to have been taken on Friday in the Gaza Strip, but could not ascertain that the explosions seen in that footage originated from Israeli fire. A Hamas security source in the Gaza Strip, speaking on condition on anonymity, told AFP that “two cars were bombed next to the Kuwaiti Hospital south of Gaza City”. The Israeli army has not responded to AFP’s requests for comment. Tal Heinrich, a spokeswoman for the prime minister’s office, told reporters on Saturday that Israel was “taking all precautions” to avoid civilian deaths. From north to south, the Gaza Strip is 40-kilometres (25 miles) long. In a statement on Saturday, Hamas officials reported “70 martyrs” and 200 wounded, including women and children, in an “Israeli massacre… and a heinous crime” against displaced families. Since fighting erupted on October 7, at least 2,215 Palestinians including 724 children have been killed in Gaza, Hamas officials said. At least 1,300 people have been killed in Israel over the same period, the majority of them in Hamas’s attack last week, according to Israeli officials.