February 28, 2024

By NAJIB JOBAIN, SAMY MAGDY and CARA ANNA (Related Press)

RAFAH, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israel’s neighbors and key mediators warned Saturday of catastrophe and repercussions if its army launches a floor invasion in Gaza’s southern metropolis of Rafah, the place Israel says remaining Hamas strongholds are situated — together with over half the besieged territory’s inhabitants.

Israeli airstrikes killed no less than 44 Palestinians — together with greater than a dozen youngsters — in Rafah, hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated he requested the army to plan for the evacuation of a whole bunch of 1000’s of individuals forward of an invasion. He gave no particulars or timeline.

The announcement set off panic. Greater than half of Gaza’s 2.3 million individuals are packed into Rafah, which borders Egypt. Many fled there after following Israeli evacuation orders that now cowl two-thirds of the territory following the Oct. 7 Hamas assault that sparked the warfare. It’s not clear the place they might go subsequent.

Egyptian Overseas Minister Sameh Shoukry stated any Israeli floor offensive on Rafah would have “disastrous penalties,” and asserted that Israel goals to ultimately pressure the Palestinians out of their land. Egypt has warned that any motion of Palestinians into Egypt would threaten the four-decade-old peace treaty between Israel and Egypt.

One other mediator, Qatar, additionally warned of catastrophe, and Saudi Arabia warned of “very severe repercussions.” There’s even growing friction between Netanyahu and the US, whose officers have stated a Rafah invasion with no plan for civilians there would result in catastrophe.

“The individuals in Gaza can not disappear into skinny air,” German Overseas Minister Annalena Baerbock stated on X, including that an Israeli offensive on Rafah can be a “humanitarian disaster within the making.”

Israel has carried out nearly each day airstrikes in Rafah, a uncommon entry level for Gaza’s badly wanted meals and medical provides, throughout its present floor fight in Khan Younis simply to the north.

In a single day into Saturday, three airstrikes on houses within the Rafah space killed 28 individuals, based on a well being official and Related Press journalists who noticed our bodies arriving at hospitals. Every strike killed a number of members of a household, together with a complete of 10 youngsters, the youngest 3 months previous.

Fadel al-Ghannam stated one strike tore his family members to shreds. He misplaced his son, daughter-in-law and 4 grandchildren. He fears even worse with a floor invasion of Rafah, and stated the world’s silence has enabled Israel to proceed.

Afterward Saturday, an Israeli airstrike on a house in Rafah killed no less than 11 individuals, together with three youngsters, based on Ahmed al-Soufi, head of Rafah municipality.

“That is what Netanyahu targets — the civilians,” stated a neighbor, Samir Abu Loulya. Two different strikes in Rafah killed two policemen and three senior officers within the civil police, based on metropolis officers.

In Khan Younis, Israeli forces opened hearth at Nasser Hospital, the realm’s largest, killing no less than two individuals and wounding 5, based on the medical charity Docs With out Borders. Israeli tanks reached the hospital gates Saturday morning, Ahmed Maghrabi, a doctor there, stated in a Fb put up.

Well being Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra stated hospital workers are not capable of transfer between buildings due to the extreme hearth. He stated 450 sufferers and 10,000 displaced individuals are sheltering there.

The Israeli army stated troops weren’t working contained in the hospital however referred to as the encompassing space “an energetic fight zone.”

Israel’s military chief, Lt. Gen. Herzl Halevi, stated greater than 2,000 Hamas fighters in Khan Younis had been killed in airstrikes and floor fight, however the offensive within the metropolis was removed from over.

Israel declared warfare after a number of thousand Hamas militants burst throughout the border into southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,300 individuals and taking 250 others hostage. Not all are nonetheless alive.

The Gaza Well being Ministry stated the our bodies of 117 individuals killed in Israeli airstrikes had been dropped at hospitals over the previous 24 hours, elevating the general demise toll from the offensive to twenty-eight,064, largely ladies and youngsters. The ministry stated greater than 67,000 individuals have been wounded.

Israel holds Hamas chargeable for civilian deaths as a result of it fights from inside civilian areas, however U.S. officers have referred to as for extra surgical strikes. President Joe Biden has stated Israel’s response is “excessive.”

Netanyahu’s workplace says it’s inconceivable to get rid of Hamas whereas leaving 4 Hamas battalions in Rafah.

The United Nations says town that’s usually dwelling to lower than 300,000 individuals now hosts 1.4 million others who fled preventing elsewhere and is “severely overcrowded.” Roughly 80% of Gaza’s individuals have been displaced.

On Saturday, Israel’s army stated it had found tunnels beneath the primary headquarters of the U.N. company for Palestinian refugees in Gaza Metropolis, alleging that Hamas militants used the area.

An Israeli airstrike on the central city of Deir al-Balah killed 5 individuals and wounded about 10 others, based on hospital officers and AP journalists.

Within the Tel al-Hawa neighborhood of Gaza Metropolis, two medics from the Palestinian Crimson Crescent had been discovered useless in a destroyed ambulance after going lacking 12 days in the past. That they had tried to rescue 5-year-old Hind Rajab, who had been touring with household to heed evacuation orders.

The PRC beforehand launched a recording of a name from Hind’s cousin saying the automobile had come underneath hearth and solely she and Hind survived. The cousin went silent mid-call. Hind later died.

The PRC stated the rescue mission was coordinated with Israel’s army, which had no remark.

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Magdy reported from Cairo, and Anna from New York. Related Press author Kirsten Grieshaber in Berlin contributed.

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Discover extra of AP’s protection at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war.