Israeli strikes on southern Gaza city of Rafah kill 22, mostly children

21 April 2024, 16:14

People protest in Tel Aviv against Benjamin Netanyahu's government
APTOPIX Israel Palestinians. Picture: PA

The attacks came as the United States was on track to approve billions of dollars in additional military aid for its close ally.

Israeli strikes on the southern Gaza city of Rafah overnight killed 22 people, including 18 children, health officials said on Sunday, as the United States was on track to approve billions of dollars in additional military aid for its close ally.

Israel has carried out near-daily air raids on Rafah, where more than half of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million have sought refuge from fighting elsewhere.

It has also vowed to expand its ground offensive to the city on the border with Egypt despite international calls for restraint, including from the US.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement: “In the coming days, we will increase the political and military pressure on Hamas because this is the only way to bring back our hostages and achieve victory. We will land more and painful blows on Hamas soon.”

Mr Netanyahu did not give any more details.

Israel Palestinians
People in Tel Aviv protest against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government and call for the release of hostages held in the Gaza Strip by Hamas (Leo Correa/AP)

The first overnight strike killed a man, his wife and their three-year-old child, according to the nearby Kuwaiti Hospital, which received the bodies. The woman was pregnant, and the doctors managed to save the baby, the hospital said.

The second strike killed 17 children and two women, all from the same extended family, according to hospital records. First responders were still searching the rubble.

An air strike in Rafah the night before killed nine people, including six children.

The House of Representatives approved a 26 billion dollar (£21 billion) aid package on Saturday, which includes around 9 billion dollars (£7.3 billion) in humanitarian assistance for Gaza.

The Senate could pass the package as soon as Tuesday, and President Joe Biden has promised to sign it immediately.

Mohammed al-Beheiri said his daughter, Rasha, and her six children, ranging in age from 18 months to 16 years, were among those killed overnight and into Sunday. Her husband’s second wife and their three children are still under the rubble, he added.

The Israel-Hamas war has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians, according to local health officials, devastated Gaza’s two largest cities and left a swathe of destruction across the territory.

Around 80% of the population have fled their homes to other parts of the besieged coastal enclave, which experts say is on the brink of famine.

The conflict, now in its seventh month, has sparked regional unrest, pitting Israel and the US against Iran and allied militant groups across the Middle East. Israel and Iran traded fire directly earlier this month, raising fears of all-out war between the long-time foes.

Tensions have also surged in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Israel Palestinians
Smoke rises from an explosion during an Israeli military operation in the Nur Shams refugee camp, near the West Bank town of Tulkarem, on Saturday (Majdi Mohammed/AP)

Israeli troops killed two Palestinians who the military said attacked a checkpoint with a knife and a gun near the southern West Bank town of Hebron early on Sunday.

The Palestinian Health Ministry said the two killed were 18 and 19 years old, from the same family. No Israeli forces were wounded, the army said.

The Palestinian Red Crescent rescue service meanwhile said it had recovered a total of 14 bodies after an Israeli raid on the Nur Shams urban refugee camp in the West Bank that began late Thursday.

Those killed include three militants from the Islamic Jihad group and a 15-year-old boy.

The military said it killed 10 militants in the camp and arrested eight suspects. Nine Israeli soldiers and officers were wounded.

In a separate incident in the West Bank, an Israeli man was wounded in an explosion on Sunday, the Magen David Adom rescue service said.

A video circulating online shows a man approaching a Palestinian flag that had been planted in a field. When he kicks it, it appears to trigger an explosive device.

Israel Palestinians
Palestinian workers clear the rubble following an Israeli raid on the Nur Shams refugee camp in the West Bank (Nasser Nasser/AP)

At least 469 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli soldiers and settlers in the West Bank since the start of the war in Gaza, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.

Most have been killed during Israeli military arrest raids, which often trigger gunbattles, or in violent protests.

The war in Gaza was sparked by an unprecedented raid into southern Israel on October 7 last year, in which Hamas and other militants killed around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducted around 250 hostages.

Israel says militants are still holding around 100 hostages and the remains of more than 30 others.

Thousands of Israelis have taken to the streets to call for new elections to replace Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a deal with Hamas to release the hostages.

Mr Netanyahu has vowed to continue the war until Hamas is destroyed and all the hostages are returned.

Israel Palestinians
An Israeli military vehicle drives near the West Bank town of Tulkarem (Majdi Mohammed/AP)

The war has killed at least 34,049 Palestinians and wounded another 76,901, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.

The ministry does not differentiate between combatants and civilians in its count but says at least two-thirds have been children and women.

It also says the real toll is likely to be higher because many bodies are underneath the rubble left by air strikes or are in areas that are unreachable for medics.

Israel blames Hamas for civilian casualties because the militants fight in dense, residential neighbourhoods, but the military rarely comments on individual strikes, which often kill women and children.

The military says it has killed more than 13,000 Hamas fighters, without providing evidence.

By Press Association

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