Two Palestinians killed in Israeli air strikes in Rafah as Netanyahu signals imminent invasion

Health officials in the Gaza Strip said that Israeli air strikes killed at least 31 Palestinians in Rafah early Saturday morning, hours after the Israeli Prime Minister announced that he had asked the army to plan the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people from the southern city of Gaza earlier than expected. To withdraw. Ground invasion.

Benjamin Netanyahu did not provide details or timetable in Friday’s announcement. More than half of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million is crowded into Rafah, many having been repeatedly displaced under Israeli evacuation orders that now cover two-thirds of Gaza’s territory. It’s not clear where they could go next.

News of the invasion plans came on the heels of a week of increasing public friction between Netanyahu and the Biden administration. US officials said that invading Rafah without a plan for the civilian population would lead to disaster.

Israel carries out air strikes in Rafah on an almost daily basis, even after it asked civilians in recent weeks to seek shelter there to escape ground fighting in the city of Khan Yunis, just to the north.

A destroyed building in the city of Rafah in the Gaza Strip.
Citizens inspect the damage to buildings after Israeli air strikes on Saturday in Rafah. (Ahmed Hasaballah/Getty Images)

Overnight into Saturday, three airstrikes on homes in the Rafah area killed 28 people, according to a health official and Associated Press journalists who saw bodies arriving at hospitals. Each raid killed several members of three families, including 10 children, the youngest of whom was three months old.

In Khan Yunis, the current center of ground fighting, Israeli forces opened fire on Nasser Hospital, the largest hospital in the area, killing at least one person and wounding several others, said Ashraf al-Qudra, spokesman for the Gaza Ministry of Health.

He said that medical teams were no longer able to move between the facility’s buildings due to the intensity of the fire. He said that 300 medical workers, 450 patients and 10,000 displaced people were taking shelter in the hospital.

Disagreement with Washington

More than 28,000 Palestinians were killed over the course of four months of war, according to Palestinian health officials. The war began after an attack by Hamas-led militants in Israel that killed 1,200 people, including many Canadians. About 250 people were taken hostage.

The steady rise in the number of Palestinian deaths has contributed to friction between Netanyahu and Washington.

Israel holds Hamas responsible for the killing of civilians because it is fighting from within civilian areas, but American officials rejected this, demanding more surgical strikes. US President Joe Biden said this week that Israel’s response was “over the top.”

Israel says Rafah, which borders Egypt, is Hamas’s last remaining stronghold in Gaza after more than four months of war.

Israeli Prime Minister: 4 Hamas brigades in Rafah

Netanyahu’s office said on Friday, “It is impossible to achieve the goal of the war to eliminate Hamas by keeping four Hamas-affiliated battalions in Rafah.”

“On the contrary, it is clear that the intense activity in Rafah requires the evacuation of civilians from combat zones.”

She added that he ordered military and security officials to develop a “joint plan” that includes a mass evacuation of civilians and the destruction of Hamas forces in the town.

It remains unclear where civilians might go. The Israeli attack has caused widespread destruction, especially in northern Gaza, and hundreds of thousands of people have no homes to return to.

In addition, Egypt warned that any movement of Palestinians across the border into Egypt would threaten the four-decade-old peace treaty between Israel and Egypt. The border crossing between Gaza and Egypt, which is mostly closed, serves as the main entry point for humanitarian aid.

The city has an additional 1.4 million people

Rafah’s pre-war population was about 280,000, and according to the United Nations, it is now home to an additional 1.4 million people who live with relatives, in shelters or sprawling camps after fleeing fighting elsewhere in Gaza.

Israel declared war after several thousand Hamas fighters rushed across the border into southern Israel on October 7, killing 1,200 people and taking 250 hostage.

The Gaza Health Ministry said on Saturday that the bodies of 117 people killed in Israeli airstrikes had been transferred to Gaza hospitals in the past 24 hours, bringing the total death toll from the air and ground attack to 28,064. The ministry said that more than 67,000 people were infected during the past four months.

Nearly 80% of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million have been displaced, and the Strip has been plunged into a humanitarian crisis with shortages of food and medical services.

(tags for translation) killed

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