Israeli raids kill 44 Palestinians in Rafah after Netanyahu said a ground invasion was coming there

RAFAH (Gaza Strip) – Israeli airstrikes killed at least 44 Palestinians – including more than a dozen children – in the city of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on Saturday, hours after the Israeli prime minister announced that he had asked the army to plan the evacuation of the Palestinians. Hundreds of thousands of people were there before the ground invasion.

Benjamin Netanyahu He did not provide details or a timetable, but the announcement was made Creating panic And warnings from diplomats. More than half of Gaza's 2.3 million people are crammed into Rafah, many of them having complied with Israeli evacuation orders that now cover two-thirds of the Strip. It's not clear where they can run next.

Israel says Rafah, which borders Egypt, is Hamas's last remaining stronghold in Gaza after more than four months of war sparked by the blockade. October 7 Hamas attack.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said that any Israeli ground attack on Rafah would have “severe consequences,” and stressed that Israel ultimately aims to force the Palestinians out of their lands.

Another mediator, Qatar, warned of disaster if Israel carried out an attack on Rafah, and Saudi Arabia warned of “very serious repercussions.” friction Between Netanyahu and the United States, whose officials said that an invasion of Rafah without a plan for the civilian population would do that Lead to disaster.

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

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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 3 months old.

Fadel Al-Ghanem said that one of the raids tore the bodies of his loved ones apart. He lost his son, daughter-in-law and four grandchildren.

He fears the worst could be a ground invasion of Rafah, and said the world's silence has enabled Israel to move forward. He added: “To this day, the world has not been fair to us.”

Later on Saturday, an Israeli air strike on a house in Rafah killed at least 11 people, including three children, according to Ahmed Al-Sufi, the mayor of Rafah. The dead were transferred to Abu Youssef Al-Najjar Hospital, according to an Associated Press journalist there.

“This is what Netanyahu is targeting – civilians,” said neighbor Samir Abu Lulia.

Two other raids killed two policemen and three senior civilian police officers, according to city officials.

In Khan Yunis, Israeli forces opened fire on Nasser Hospital, the largest hospital in the area, killing at least two people and wounding five others, according to the medical charity Doctors Without Borders.

Ahmed Al-Mughrabi, a doctor at the hospital, said in a post on Facebook that Israeli tanks arrived at the hospital gates on Saturday morning.

Ministry of Health spokesman Ashraf Al-Qudra said that hospital workers were no longer able to move between buildings due to the intensity of the fire. He added that 300 medical workers, 450 patients, and 10,000 displaced people are sheltering there.

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

Nearly 80% of Gaza's population has been displaced, and the region has plunged into chaos Humanitarian crisis With food shortages and medical services.

The death toll in Gaza exceeds 28 thousand

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

Israel declared war after several thousand Hamas fighters rushed across the border into southern Israel on October 7, killing 1,300 people and taking 250 hostage. Not all of them are still alive.

Israel holds Hamas responsible for the deaths of civilians because it fights from inside civilian areas, but American 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 four Hamas-affiliated brigades remain in Rafah.

Egypt to caution He said that any Palestinian movement to Egypt would threaten the four-decade-old peace treaty between Israel and Egypt. The Rafah border crossing, which is mostly closed, is the main entry point for humanitarian aid.

The population of Rafah before the war was about 280 thousand people. The United Nations says it is now home to some An additional 1.4 million people Those who fled fighting elsewhere.

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

Deaths elsewhere in Gaza

The Israeli attack caused widespread destruction, especially in northern Gaza, and hundreds of thousands of people no longer had homes.

An Israeli air strike on the central town of Deir al-Balah killed five people and wounded about 10 others, according to hospital officials and Associated Press journalists.

In the Tal al-Hawa neighborhood of Gaza City, two paramedics from the Palestinian Red Crescent were found dead inside a destroyed ambulance after they had disappeared 12 days ago. They rushed to rescue 6-year-old Hind Rajab, who was traveling with her family to respond to evacuation orders.

The Popular Resistance Committees had previously released a recording of a call from Hind's cousin, in which she said that the car had come under fire and only her and Hind survived. The cousin fell silent in the middle of the call.

The Popular Resistance Committees said the rescue mission was coordinated with the Israeli army, which had no comment.

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Magdy reported from Cairo. Associated Press writer Kirsten Grieshaber in Berlin contributed.

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This version corrects the name of the mayor of Rafah.

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Find more AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war.

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