On Monday, Israeli strikes on the southern city of Rafah in Gaza killed 22 people and wounded dozens, according to local health officials. The attacks caused widespread panic among residents, who were asleep when the bombing began. Some residents feared that Israel had launched its ground offensive into Rafah.
The Israeli military said that it had conducted a “series of strikes” on southern Gaza but did not provide further details. Before previous assaults on Gaza cities, Israel’s military had ordered civilians to leave without preparing any specific evacuation plan.
U.S. President Joe Biden spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday and urged Israel not to launch a military operation in Rafah without a credible plan to ensure the safety of the approximately 1 million people living there. Aid agencies warned that an attack on Rafah would be catastrophic, as it is the last relatively safe place in an enclave devastated by Israel’s military offensive.
Biden and Netanyahu spoke for about 45 minutes, days after the U.S. leader said Israel’s military response in the Gaza Strip had been “over the top” and expressed grave concern over the rising civilian death toll in the Palestinian enclave. The Hamas-run health ministry reported that Israel has responded with a military assault on the Gaza Strip that has killed more than 28,000 Palestinians since January 1st this year alone.
Hamas militants killed 1,200 people in southern Israel and abducted at least 250 in their October 7 incursion, according to Israeli tallies. Hamas-run Aqsa Television on Sunday quoted a senior Hamas leader as saying that any Israeli ground offensive in Rafah will “blow up” the hostage-exchange negotiations between Hamas and Israel’s government.