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First foreigners, wounded set to leave devastated Gaza

PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES — Hundreds of wounded Gaza residents and foreigners gathered at the Egypt border Wednesday, poised to flee the shattered territory that is still reeling from a deadly Israeli strike on a refugee camp.

AFP images showed long lines of ambulances and several people in wheelchairs at the Rafah border crossing -- the only one not controlled by Israel -- after Cairo said it would let in 81 of the most seriously injured.

Egypt also announced the first foreigners could exit Gaza, which has suffered weeks of relentless bombardment by Israel that has cost the lives of more than 8,500 people, including more than 3,500 children, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

AFP reporters saw more tanks pour over the border into northern Gaza, as Israel stepped up its ground incursion in response to the October 7 Hamas attacks that killed 1,400 people, according to Israeli officials.

An Israeli strike on Gaza's largest refugee camp killed at least 47 people Tuesday, including, Israel said, a Hamas commander involved in the October 7 attacks.

A large explosion ripped through the densely packed Jabalia camp before nightfall, tearing facades off nearby buildings and leaving a deep, debris-littered crater.

Wails filled the air as hundreds of bystanders and volunteers clawed at concrete blocks and twisted metal looking for survivors.

AFP witnessed at least 47 corpses being recovered.

Horrified resident Ragheb Aqal, 41, likened the explosion to "an earthquake" and spoke of seeing "homes buried under the rubble and body parts and martyrs and wounded in huge numbers".

Israel said its warplanes had struck a "vast" tunnel complex at the site, killing "many Hamas terrorists", including local battalion commander Ibrahim Biari.

Military spokesman Jonathan Conricus described Biari as "pivotal in the planning and execution" of the raids by Hamas, that Israel has vowed to "crush" in retribution. 

Gaza's Hamas-run health ministry denounced the incident as "a heinous Israeli massacre" and said an initial toll of 50 dead and 150 wounded was sure to rise.

Tuesday's strike sparked more international condemnation, with Bolivia announcing it was cutting ties. 

And Qatar