At least 10 children among dead as fears of Israeli ground attack intensify in southern Gaza.
The Israeli army killed at least 28 Palestinians in strikes on Rafah immediately after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signaled that an invasion of the southern Gaza city could be near.
Three air raids on residences in the Rafah region killed at least 28 people overnight Saturday, according to a health official and Associated Press journalists who saw the bodies arriving at hospitals.
As in many previous Israeli air raids, each attack reportedly killed several members of three families, including a total of 10 children, the youngest of whom was only three months old.
This came hours after Netanyahu said he had ordered the army to plan the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of forcibly displaced Palestinians from Rafah in preparation for a ground invasion to accompany the air attacks.
Netanyahu provided no details or timeline, but his announcement only exacerbated widespread panic among more than half of the Gaza Strip's 2.3 million residents now crowded into Rafah. Many of them had already been displaced several times due to Israel's war against Gaza.
The Israeli leader said it would be necessary to clear Rafah of the four Hamas battalions present in the area to achieve “total victory” over the group.
Al Jazeera's Rory Challands said from occupied East Jerusalem: “At the same time, he said no massive military operation in Rafah could take place without the evacuation of civilians from the combat zone. He asked the army and security to come up with plans that combine the two.”
“This is causing immense concern around the world. The United States has said it cannot tolerate any operation there that does not have a proper humanitarian plan in place. The United Nations says any forced displacement of the 1.4 million people is unacceptable,” he said.
Washington and other allies, as well as rights organizations, have warned Israel that invading Rafah would lead to “disaster” and the United Nations has continued to express concern about the devastating consequences for civilians.
“Where are they supposed to go?” How are they supposed to stay safe? » asked Martin Griffiths, UN humanitarian and relief chief, on Saturday.
Many of the more than one million people who now make up Rafah's population have endured unthinkable suffering.
Where are they supposed to go? How are they supposed to stay safe? pic.twitter.com/5dK4TB243S
– Martin Griffiths (@UNReliefChief) February 9, 2024
Meanwhile, intense fighting continues to rage in parts of Gaza, with Khan Younis in the south remaining a main focus of Israeli ground and air attacks.
The region's largest medical facility, Nasser Hospital, remains under siege by Israeli forces who have killed dozens of people in the surrounding area, including using sniper fire and attack drones.
Around 300 overworked medical staff, 450 patients and some 10,000 displaced people are believed to have taken refuge in the hospital, unable to leave due to Israeli fire and lack of security elsewhere.
Israel's invasion of Gaza has killed at least 28,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children, and thousands more are missing, likely under the rubble.