Thursday, February 29, 2024
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Dozens of Palestinians killed in Israeli strikes in Rafah


Israeli airstrikes killed at least 44 Palestinians – including more than a dozen children – in the southern Gaza town of Rafah on Saturday, hours after Israel’s prime minister said he had requested the army to plan the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people before a field invasion.

Benjamin Netanyahu provided no details or timetable, but the announcement sparked panic and warnings from diplomats. More than half of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents are crowded into Rafah, most after following Israeli evacuation orders that now cover two-thirds of the territory. It’s unclear where they might run next.

Israel says Rafah, which borders Egypt, is the last stronghold of the Hamas militant group in Gaza after more than four months of war started by Hamas attack on October 7.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry warned that any Israeli ground offensive on Rafah would have “disastrous consequences”, and said Israel aimed to eventually force Palestinians from their lands.

Shoukry also said Egypt was working to bridge the gap between the warring parties in order to achieve a permanent ceasefire and release the remaining hostages taken on October 7 in exchange for Palestinian prisoners in Israel. “The negotiations are complex,” he said.

There is growing friction between Netanyahu and the United States, whose officials have said an invasion of Rafah without a plan for the civilian population would lead to disaster.

Israel has carried out airstrikes in Rafah almost daily, even after in recent weeks asking civilians to take refuge there to avoid ongoing ground fighting in Khan Younis, just to the north.

On Saturday night, three airstrikes on homes in the Rafah region killed 28 people, according to a health official and Associated Press journalists who saw the bodies arriving at hospitals. Each strike killed several members of three families, including a total of 10 children, the youngest aged 3 months.

Fadel al-Ghannam said a single blow tore the bodies of his loved ones to shreds. He lost his son, his daughter-in-law and his four grandchildren.

He fears even worse with a ground invasion of Rafah and says the world’s silence has allowed Israel to move forward. “Until this day, the world has not been fair to us,” he said.

Later Saturday, an Israeli airstrike on a house in Rafah killed at least 11 people, including three children, according to Ahmed al-Sawaf, head of the Rafah municipality. The dead were taken to Abu Youssef al-Najjar hospital, according to an AP journalist. Two other strikes killed two police officers and three senior civil police officers, according to municipal authorities.

In Khan Younis, Israeli forces opened fire on the Nasser hospital, the largest in the region, killing at least two people and injuring five, according to the medical association Doctors Without Borders.

Israeli tanks reached the hospital gates on Saturday morning, Ahmed Maghrabi, a hospital doctor, said in a Facebook post.

Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra said hospital staff could no longer move between buildings due to the intensity of the fire. He said 300 medical staff, 450 patients and 10,000 displaced people had found refuge there.

The Israeli military said troops were not currently operating inside the hospital and described the surrounding area as an “active combat zone.”

Around 80% of Gaza’s population was displaced and the territory plunged into a humanitarian crisis with shortages of food and medical services.

Israel Palestinians
Palestinians control the destruction after an Israeli strike in Rafah, in the Gaza Strip, Saturday February 10, 2024.

Fatima Chbair / AP


Fadel al Ghannam lost his son, daughter-in-law and four grandchildren in one of these strikes. Standing amid the rubble, he said the strike had torn the bodies of his loved ones to shreds.

He fears even worse, with the imminent ground invasion of Rafah, and says the world’s silence has allowed Israel to move forward. “Until today, the world has not been fair to us and given us our rights,” he said.

Later Saturday, an Israeli airstrike on a house in Rafah killed at least 11 people, including three children, according to Ahmed al-Sawaf, head of the Rafah municipality. The dead were taken to Abu Youssef al-Najjar hospital, according to an AP journalist. Two other strikes killed two police officers and three senior civil police officers, according to municipal authorities.

In Khan Younis, Israeli forces opened fire on the Nasser hospital, the largest in the region, killing at least two people and injuring five, according to the medical association Doctors Without Borders.

Israeli tanks reached the hospital gates on Saturday morning, Ahmed Maghrabi, a hospital doctor, said in a Facebook post.

Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra said hospital staff could no longer move between buildings due to the intensity of the fire. He said 300 medical staff, 450 patients and 10,000 displaced people had found refuge there.

The Israeli military said troops were not currently operating inside the hospital and described the surrounding area as an “active combat zone.”

Death toll continues to rise

Gaza’s health ministry said Saturday that the bodies of 117 people killed in Israeli airstrikes had been taken to hospitals in the past 24 hours, bringing the total death toll to 28,064, most of them women. and children. The ministry said more than 67,000 people were injured.

Israel declared war after several thousand Hamas militants stormed into southern Israel on October 7, killing 1,300 people and taking 250 others hostage. Not everyone is still alive.

Israel holds Hamas responsible for civilian deaths because it fights from civilian areas, but U.S. officials have called for more surgical strikes. President Joe Biden said this week that Israel’s response was “over the top.”

Netanyahu’s office says it is impossible to eliminate Hamas while leaving four Hamas battalions in Rafah.

Egypt has warned that any movement of Palestinians towards Egypt would threaten the four-decade-old peace treaty between Israel and Egypt. The Rafah border post, which is largely closed, is the main entry point for humanitarian aid.

Rafah had a population of around 280,000 before the war and, according to the United Nations, is now home to some 1.4 million more people who have fled fighting elsewhere.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock warned that an Israeli offensive on Rafah would be a “humanitarian catastrophe in the making,” adding on X that “Gaza residents cannot disappear into thin air.”

Israel Palestinians
A Palestinian recovers his belongings after an Israeli strike in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Saturday, February 10, 2024.

Fatima Chbair / AP


Destruction in northern Gaza

The Israeli offensive has caused widespread destruction, particularly in northern Gaza, and hundreds of thousands of people are left homeless.

In the Tel al-Hawa neighborhood of Gaza City, two Palestinian Red Crescent doctors were found dead on Saturday in a destroyed ambulance after going missing 12 days ago. They had rushed to rescue Hind Rajab, 6, who was traveling with his family to obey evacuation orders.

The PRC previously released a recording of a call from Hind’s cousin saying the car had been fired upon and that only she and Hind survived. The cousin remained silent in the middle of the call.

The PRC said the rescue mission was coordinated with the Israeli military, which made no comment.



Note: The content and images used in this article is rewritten and sourced from www.cbsnews.com

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