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Aid groups warn against assault on last Gaza refuge as Israel strikes Rafah

In World
February 09, 2024

DOHA – Israel launched a deadly air strike on Rafah in southern Gaza on Feb 9, despite criticism of its offensive by United States President Joe Biden and aid groups’ warnings of a high death toll among Palestinians if it advances into the city.

International concern about the fate of hundreds of thousands of displaced Gazans sheltering in Rafah has mounted since Israel threatened a ground assault on the city, on the border with Egypt.

Washington said on Feb 8 it would not support any Israeli military operation launched in Rafah without due consideration for the plight of civilians, and

Mr Biden described Israel’s response to the Oct 7 Hamas attacks as “over the top”.

Hours after his remarks, Israeli warplanes flew new sorties over Gaza.

Palestinian health officials said at least 15 people were killed in the air strikes, including eight in Rafah, where over half Gaza’s 2.3 million people are now sheltering.

“We were sleeping inside and, when the strike hit, were thrown outside. After that, another rocket hit,” said Mr Mohammed al-Nahal, an elderly Palestinian standing beside the rubble of a building that had been hit.

“It destroyed the entire home. My daughter was killed. My daughter, her husband, her son, all were martyred. There are two others in the hospital.”

Doctors and aid workers in Rafah are struggling to supply even basic aid and stop the spread of disease.

“No war can be allowed in a gigantic refugee camp,” said Mr Jan Egeland, secretary-general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, warning of a “bloodbath” if Israeli operations expand there.

Deaths despite diplomacy

Gaza’s health ministry said on Feb 9 that at least 27,947 Palestinians have been confirmed killed in the conflict, 107 of them in the previous 24 hours, and 67,459 injured.

It says many more could still be buried under the rubble from the Israeli offensive, launched after Hamas militants killed 1,200 people and took 253 hostages in Israel on Oct 7.

The Israeli military said its naval, air and ground forces were in action in the area of Khan Younis and in northern and central Gaza to eliminate militant cells and destroy militant infrastructure.

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