February 20, 2024

GAZA STRIP, Palestinian Territories: Israeli air strikes pummeled densely crowded Rafah on Saturday after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered his troops to “put together to function” within the southern border metropolis that has grow to be a final refuge for displaced Palestinians.

Netanyahu’s deliberate offensive on Rafah, the place an estimated 1.3 million folks have fled, has drawn condemnation from rights teams and Washington, whereas Palestinians have mentioned they’ve nowhere left to retreat.

Witnesses reported new strikes on Rafah early Saturday, after the Israeli army intensified air raids, with fears rising amongst Palestinians of a coming floor invasion.

“We don’t know the place to go,” mentioned Mohammad Al-Jarrah, a Palestinian who was displaced from additional north to Rafah.

Town is the final main inhabitants heart within the Gaza Strip that Israeli troops have but to enter and likewise the principle level of entry for desperately wanted reduction provides.

Netanyahu informed army officers on Friday to “undergo the cupboard a mixed plan for evacuating the inhabitants and destroying the battalions” of Hamas militants holed up in Rafah, his workplace mentioned.

The US State Division mentioned it doesn’t help a floor offensive in Rafah, warning that, if not correctly deliberate, such an operation dangers “catastrophe.”

The USA is Israel’s foremost worldwide backer, offering it with billions of {dollars} in army support.

However in an indication of rising frustration, US President Joe Biden issued his strongest criticism of Israel but, describing the retaliation for Hamas’s October 7 assault as going too far.

“I’m of the view, as you understand, that the conduct of the response in Gaza, within the Gaza Strip, has been excessive,” the US president mentioned.

“There are lots of harmless people who find themselves ravenous… in bother and dying, and it’s bought to cease.”

Displaced Palestinians have flooded into Rafah, the place a whole bunch of 1000’s are sleeping in tents pushed up in opposition to the Egyptian border.

AFP pictures confirmed scenes of devastation, with folks queuing for more and more scarce water.

Rights teams have sounded alarm on the prospect of a floor incursion.

“Israel’s declared floor offensive on Rafah could be catastrophic and should not proceed,” Medical doctors With out Borders mentioned in an announcement. “There isn’t any place that’s protected in Gaza and no approach for folks to depart.”

The Hamas-run territory’s well being ministry on Saturday mentioned that not less than 110 folks had been killed in in a single day bombardment, together with 25 in strikes in Rafah.

The day prior to this, the Palestinian Purple Crescent mentioned that three kids had been killed in a strike in Rafah.

“We heard the sound of an enormous explosion subsequent to our home… we discovered two kids martyred on the street,” mentioned Jaber Al-Bardini, 60.

“There isn’t any protected place in Rafah. In the event that they storm Rafah, we are going to die in our houses.”

Israeli forces raided Al-Amal Hospital in Khan Yunis, southern Gaza’s largest metropolis, on Friday after a weeks-long siege throughout which the Palestinian Purple Crescent has reported “intense artillery shelling and heavy gunfire.”

The medical group mentioned Israeli forces had arrested eight of its crew members on the hospital, together with “4 docs, in addition to 4 wounded people and 5 sufferers’ companions.”

UN chief Antonio Guterres has mentioned any Israeli push into Rafah “would exponentially enhance what’s already a humanitarian nightmare.”

However Netanyahu’s workplace mentioned it could be “unattainable” to attain the conflict’s goal of eliminating Hamas whereas leaving 4 of the militants’ battalions in Rafah.

Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 assault resulted within the deaths of about 1,160 folks in Israel, principally civilians, in line with an AFP tally primarily based on official Israeli figures.

In response, Israel vowed to eradicate Hamas and launched air strikes and a floor offensive which have killed not less than 27,947 folks, principally girls and youngsters, in line with the well being ministry within the Hamas-run territory.

Militants seized 250 hostages, 132 of whom are nonetheless in Gaza, however 29 are presumed useless, Israel has mentioned.

State Division deputy spokesman Vedant Patel mentioned an Israeli floor operation in Rafah was “not one thing we’d help.”

“To conduct such an operation proper now with no planning and little thought… could be a catastrophe,” Patel warned.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had conveyed Washington’s considerations to Netanyahu immediately throughout talks this week in Jerusalem, he added.

On the ceasefire talks, Blinken mentioned he nonetheless noticed “house for settlement to be reached” to halt the preventing and produce dwelling Israeli hostages, even after Netanyahu rejected what he labelled Hamas’s “weird calls for.”

Hamas negotiators left Cairo on Friday after what a Hamas supply described as “optimistic and good discussions” with Egyptian and Qatari mediators.

“The delegation left Cairo tonight (Friday) and is awaiting Israel’s response,” a Hamas official mentioned on situation of anonymity as he was not licensed to talk on the difficulty.

The affect of the conflict has been felt broadly, with violence involving Iran-backed allies of Hamas surging throughout the Center East and drawing in US forces amongst others.

Iran-backed Lebanese militant group Hezbollah mentioned Friday it had fired dozens of rockets at a military place within the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, hours after launching a salvo at northern Israel.

Within the early hours of Saturday, Israeli strikes focused the outskirts of the Syrian capital Damascus, in line with the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the official Syrian press company, which reported “materials” injury.

Because of the ongoing conflict and threat of wider penalties, the US rankings company Moody’s downgraded Israel’s credit standing on Friday, and likewise lowered its outlook for Israel’s debt to “unfavorable” as a consequence of “the chance of an escalation” with Hezbollah.

Israel’s former finance minister turned opposition MP Avigdor Lieberman attributed the downgrading to the Netanyahu authorities’s “populist” measures.

“The federal government of destruction continues to degenerate us into an financial catastrophe simply because it introduced us right into a safety catastrophe,” he wrote on social media platform X.