On Monday, Israeli strikes on Gaza’s southern city of Rafah killed 22 people and wounded dozens, local health officials said. After U.S. President Joe Biden told Israel not to attack Rafah without a credible plan to protect civilians, residents reported that heavy bombing caused widespread panic as many people were asleep when the strikes started. Some feared Israel had begun its ground offensive into Rafah.
The Israeli military did not provide further details about the strikes but had previously ordered civilians to leave without any specific evacuation plan before previous assaults on Gaza cities. Before this latest attack, aid agencies warned that an assault on Rafah would be catastrophic, as it is the last relatively safe place in an enclave devastated by Israel’s military offensive.
On Sunday, Biden spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for about 45 minutes and urged him not to launch a military operation in Rafah without a credible plan to ensure the safety of the roughly 1 million people sheltering there. The White House stated that Biden expressed grave concern over the rising civilian death toll in Gaza and condemned Israel’s military response in the Strip as “over the top.”
Hamas militants killed 1,200 people in southern Israel and abducted at least 250 during their October 7 incursion, according to Israeli tallies. Hamas-run Aqsa Television reported that any Israeli ground offensive in Rafah will “blow up” hostage-exchange negotiations, according to a senior Hamas leader quoted on Sunday.