Gaza mediators and others warn Israel of disaster if it launches a ground invasion into crowded Rafah

Rafah (Gaza Strip) – Israel's neighbors and key mediators warned on Saturday of disaster and repercussions if its army launches a ground invasion in Rafah (Gaza Strip) The city of Rafah, south of the Gaza Stripwhere Israel says Hamas's remaining strongholds are located – along with more than half the population of the besieged area.

Israeli air strikes killed at least 44 Palestinians – including more than a dozen children – in Rafah, hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced he had asked the army to plan the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people ahead of the invasion. He did not provide details or timetable.

This announcement sparked panic. More than half of Gaza's population of 2.3 million is gathered at the Rafah crossing, which borders Egypt. Many fled there after following Israeli evacuation orders that now cover two-thirds of the territory after the war October 7 Hamas attack That sparked the war. It's not clear where they could go next.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said that any Israeli ground attack on Rafah would have “severe consequences,” and stressed that Israel ultimately aims to force the Palestinians out of their lands. Egypt to caution He said that any Palestinian movement to Egypt would threaten the four-decade-old peace treaty between Israel and Egypt.

Another mediator, Qatar, also warned of disaster, and Saudi Arabia warned of “very serious repercussions.” There is even an increase friction Between Netanyahu and the United States, whose officials said that an invasion of Rafah without a plan for civilians there would happen Lead to disaster.

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“People in Gaza cannot disappear into thin air,” German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said on the X programme, adding that an Israeli attack on Rafah would be “a humanitarian catastrophe in the making”.

Israel launches almost daily air strikes on Rafah, a rare entry point for Gazans Food and medical supplies are urgently neededDuring its current ground fighting in Khan Yunis to the north.

Overnight into Saturday, three airstrikes on homes in the Rafah area killed 28 people, according to a health official and Associated Press journalists who saw bodies arriving at hospitals. Each raid killed several members of one family, including 10 children, the youngest of whom was 3 months old.

Fadel Al-Ghanem said one of the raids tore his loved ones apart. He lost his son, daughter-in-law and four grandchildren. He fears the worst could be a ground invasion of Rafah, and said the world's silence has enabled Israel to move forward.

Later on Saturday, an Israeli air strike on a house in Rafah killed at least 11 people, including three children, according to Ahmed Al-Sufi, the mayor of Rafah.

“This is what Netanyahu is targeting – civilians,” said Samir Abu Lulia, one of his neighbors. Two other raids in Rafah resulted in the killing of two policemen and three senior civilian police officers, according to city officials.

In Khan Yunis, Israeli forces opened fire on Nasser Hospital, the largest hospital in the area, killing at least two people and wounding five others, according to the medical charity Doctors Without Borders. Ahmed Al-Mughrabi, a doctor there, said in a Facebook post that Israeli tanks arrived at the hospital gates on Saturday morning.

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Ministry of Health spokesman Ashraf Al-Qudra said that hospital workers were no longer able to move between buildings due to the intensity of the fire. He added that 450 patients and 10,000 displaced people are sheltering there.

The Israeli military said forces were not operating inside the hospital but described the surrounding area as an “active combat zone.”

The Israeli army commander, Lieutenant-General Herzl Halevy, said that more than 2,000 Hamas fighters in Khan Yunis were killed in air strikes and ground battles, but the attack in the city is not over yet.

The death toll in Gaza exceeds 28 thousand

Israel declared war after several thousand Hamas fighters rushed across the border into southern Israel on October 7, killing 1,300 people and taking 250 hostage. Not all of them are still alive.

The Gaza Health Ministry said the bodies of 117 people killed in Israeli airstrikes were transferred to hospitals in the past 24 hours, bringing the total death toll from the attack to 28,064, most of them women and children. The ministry said that more than 67,000 people were injured.

Israel holds Hamas responsible for the deaths of civilians because it fights from within civilian areas, but American officials have called for more surgical strikes. President Joe Biden said Israel's response was “over the top.”

Netanyahu's office says it is impossible to eliminate Hamas while four Hamas-affiliated brigades remain in Rafah.

The United Nations says the city, usually inhabited by fewer than 300,000 people, is now hosting it 1.4 million Others have fled fighting elsewhere and are “deeply overcrowded.” Nearly 80% of Gaza's population has been displaced.

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Elsewhere in Gaza

The Israeli army said on Saturday that it had done so Tunnels discovered Under the party's main headquarters United Nations Agency for Palestine Refugees In Gaza City, claiming that Hamas activists used the place.

An Israeli air strike on the central town of Deir al-Balah killed five people and wounded about 10 others, according to hospital officials and Associated Press journalists.

In the Tal Al-Hawa neighborhood in Gaza City, two paramedics from the Palestinian Red Crescent were present He was found dead in a destroyed ambulance After he disappeared 12 days ago. They tried to rescue 5-year-old Hind Rajab, who was traveling with her family to respond to evacuation orders.

The Popular Resistance Committees earlier released a recording of a call from Hind's cousin, in which she said that the car had come under fire and only her and Hind survived. The cousin fell silent in the middle of the call. Hind later died.

The Popular Resistance Committees said the rescue mission was coordinated with the Israeli army, which had no comment.

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Magdy reported from Cairo and Anna from New York. Associated Press writer Kirsten Grieshaber in Berlin contributed.

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Find more AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war.

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