Israeli strikes kill 13 in a southern Gaza town that could be the next target

Israeli airstrikes killed over a dozen people overnight and into yesterday in Rafah in the Gaza Strip, hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected Hamas’ cease-fire terms and vowed to expand the offensive into the southern Gaza town.

More than half of strip’s population has fled to Rafah, on the mostly sealed border with Egypt, which is also the main entry point for humanitarian aid. Egypt has warned that any ground operation there or mass displacement across the border would undermine its four-decade-old peace treaty with Israel.

The overnight strikes killed at least 13 people, including two women and five children, according to the Kuwaiti Hospital, which received the bodies. At the scene of one of the strikes, residents used their cellphone flashlights as they dug through the rubble with pick-axes and their bare hands.

“I wish we could collect their whole bodies instead of just pieces,” said Mohammed Abu Habib, a neighbor who witnessed the strike.

Israel’s four-month-old air and ground offensive — among the most destructive in recent history — has killed over 27,000 Palestinians, driven most people from their homes and pushed a quarter of the population toward starvation.

Netanyahu has said the offensive will continue and expand until “total victory” over Hamas, which started the war by launching a wide-ranging attack into southern Israel on Oct. 7 in which militants killed some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took around 250 hostage.

Israel has also vowed to bring back the over 100 captives still held by Hamas after most of the rest were freed during a cease-fire in November in exchange for the release of Palestinians imprisoned by Israel.

But both of those goals appear increasingly elusive, as Hamas re-emerges in parts of northern Gaza, which was the first target of the offensive and suffered widespread destruction. Israel has only rescued one hostage, while Hamas says several have been killed in airstrikes or failed rescue missions. MDT/AP

Categories World