Deadly Israeli Airstrikes Again Hit Rafah

Israeli airstrikes on the southern Gaza city of Rafah on Saturday killed several civilians, including women and children, according to Palestinian state media, sending more fear through an area where over one million displaced Palestinians are crowded into tents and temporary quarters.

For many weeks, Palestinians have been bracing for an announced Israeli ground offensive on Rafah, the southernmost part of Gaza, where more than half of the strip’s 2.2 million residents fled after being forced from their homes by more than six months of Israeli bombardment and a ground invasion.

The airstrikes hit two family homes, killing 10 residents, and missiles and artillery also struck other areas of Rafah and the surrounding area, according to the Wafa news agency.

The Israeli military would not immediately comment on the strikes. It has said the goal of its offensive in Gaza is to eradicate Hamas, the armed group that has controlled the Gaza Strip for nearly two decades.

“It was like an earthquake,” Mohammad al-Masri, a 31-year-old accountant who is sheltering with his family in a tent in a large Rafah encampment, said of the shaking from the strikes.

The first strike hit at a little past midnight, shaking the earth and lighting up the night sky, and a second one came soon after, he said. “When we hear these strikes, we don’t know what to do,” he said. “Everyone is saying the same thing, ‘Where can we go?’”

President Biden and other world leaders have urged Israel not to invade Rafah because it would make an already dire humanitarian crisis even worse.

But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not heeded those calls and claims a ground offensive is necessary to “complete the elimination of Hamas’s battalions” and to destroy its tunnel networks.

Saturday’s strikes stoked fears for Palestinians in Rafah that an invasion could be imminent.

In a briefing to the Security Council this week, Secretary General António Guterres said that Israel’s military offensive in Rafah would “compound this humanitarian catastrophe.”

Rahaf Al-Madhoun, 17, was streaming live on TikTok to talk about the living conditions in Rafah, when the first airstrike hit very close, she said. She stopped to collect herself before continuing. Then she described the terror sown by the strikes and the ever-present buzz of surveillance drones overhead.

“We’re at a loss, I swear,” she said. “The fear itself is killing us.”

Rawan Sheikh Ahmad contributed reporting.

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