KHAN YOUNIS, Gaza Strip — Israeli forces dropped leaflets warning Palestinians to flee parts of southern Gaza, residents said Thursday, signaling a possible expansion of their offensive to areas where hundreds of thousands of people who heeded earlier evacuation orders are crowded into U.N.-run shelters and family homes.
Meanwhile, soldiers continued searching Shifa Hospital in the north, in a raid that began early Wednesday. They displayed guns they say were found hidden in one building, but have yet to release any evidence of the central Hamas command center that Israel has said is concealed beneath the complex. Hamas and staff at the hospital, Gaza's largest, deny the allegations.
Broadening operations to the south — where Israel already carries out daily air raids — threatens to worsen an already severe humanitarian crisis in the besieged territory. Over 1.5 million people have been internally displaced in Gaza, with most having fled to the south, where food, water and electricity are increasingly scarce.
It's not clear where else they could go, as Egypt refuses to allow a mass transfer onto its soil.
The war, now in its sixth week, was triggered by a wide-ranging Hamas attack into southern Israel on Oct. 7 in which the militants killed over 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and captured some 240 men, women and children. Israel responded with a weekslong air campaign and a ground invasion of northern Gaza,…