On Monday, Israeli strikes on the southern city of Rafah in Gaza killed 22 people and wounded dozens, local health officials said. This came after U.S. President Joe Biden urged Israel not to launch a military operation in Rafah without a credible plan to protect civilians. Residents contacted by Reuters reported that heavy bombing caused widespread panic in Rafah, as many people were asleep when the strikes started and some feared Israel had begun its ground offensive into the city.
The Israeli military conducted a “series of strikes” on southern Gaza, but did not provide further details about what those strikes entailed or how many targets were hit. Before previous assaults on Gaza cities, Israel’s military has ordered civilians to leave without preparing any specific evacuation plan.
Biden spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday and told him not to launch a military operation in Rafah without a credible plan to ensure the safety of the roughly 1 million people sheltering there. Aid agencies warned that an assault 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.
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 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 officials.