On Monday, Israeli strikes on the southern city of Rafah in Gaza killed 22 people and injured dozens, local health officials said. The attacks were carried out after U.S. President Joe Biden urged Israel not to launch a military operation without a credible plan to protect civilians. Residents reported that heavy bombing caused widespread panic and fear of a ground offensive into the city.
The Israeli military did not provide details about the strikes but confirmed that they had concluded. In previous assaults on Gaza cities, Israel had failed to prepare any specific evacuation plans for civilians, sparking criticism from aid agencies who warned that an attack on Rafah would be catastrophic as it is the last safe place in an enclave destroyed by Israel’s military offensive.
Biden and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke for 45 minutes about the situation in Gaza, with Biden expressing grave concern over the rising civilian death toll and urging Israel to prioritize protecting civilians in any future operations. The Hamas-run health ministry reported that Israel has responded with a military assault on the Gaza Strip that has killed more than 28,000 Palestinians.
Hamas militants killed 1,200 people and abducted at least 250 during their October 7 incursion into southern Israel, according to Israeli tallies. A senior Hamas leader quoted by Hamas-run Aqsa Television said that any Israeli ground offensive in Rafah would “blow up” hostage-exchange negotiations between Israel and Hamas.