At least 31 Palestinians were killed by Israeli airstrikes in Rafah early Saturday – just hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said an attack on the city was inevitable and ordered a combined evacuation plan.
Hundreds of thousands of Gaza’s 2.3 million people fled to the town on the border with Egypt in the past four months after they were displaced by Israel’s ground assault on other parts of the tiny region.
Israel has struck Rafah for most of the past week, and warned those sheltering there to move north to Khan Younis, Gaza’s second largest city, which was the scene of a month-long assault by the Israeli Defense Forces.
Three overnight strikes on homes in Rafah killed multiple members of three families – including 10 children, the youngest of which was just 3 months old.
Hamas previously warned of “tens of thousands” of casualties if Israel followed through on plans to attack Rafah.
On Saturday, Saudi Arabia cautioned Israel against “the extremely dangerous repercussions of storming and targeting the city of Rafah in the Gaza Strip.”
The city is “the last refuge for hundreds of thousands of people,” the official statement read.
The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry now says the Palestinian death toll is 28,064. The ministry does distinguish between civilians and Hamas fighters.
Also on Saturday, Israel reportedly targeted a Hamas terrorist in a strike launched about 37 miles over the Lebanese border.
The operative survived the attack, but three others were killed – including one Hazbollah fighter, security sources said.
A few hours later, Hezbollah claimed that it seized an Israeli Skylark drone “in good condition.”
Meanwhile, Syrian officials claimed that they shot down Israeli missiles near the occupied Golan Heights early Saturday.
The alleged missiles marked the second similar attack in less than 24 hours.
Israel is still reportedly at odds with Washington after President Biden told reporters that the military response to Hamas’ Oct. 7 terror attack was “over the top.”
Biden is now sending CIA director Bill Burns to Cairo next week for meetings with Egyptian and Qatari officials, two US and Israeli officials told Axios. The talks will aim at a deal for a ceasefire and the return of the remaining hostages taken on Oct. 7.
With Post wires