Israeli Airstrikes Kill at Least 20 Palestinians in Rafah As New Gaza Ceasefire Talks Extend

An Israeli air strike on three residential properties in the southern Gaza town of Rafah on Monday killed at least 20 people and injured dozens more, medical officials reported. The attack came just hours before Egyptian and Qatari envoys were due to convene a new round of cease-fire talks with Hamas officials in Cairo.

The overnight strikes targeted family homes in the Tel Sultan and al-Aweidah neighborhoods, according to medics and hospital records. In the most deadly attack, an airstrike on a two-story house in the western part of Tel Sultan ripped through the roof and killed at least 22 people, including 11 children and seven women.

The medical sources and witnesses said that six other people were injured in the strike, which struck shortly after 3:30 a.m.. The bodies were taken to the Abu Yousef al-Najjar hospital in Rafah. The victims included Abdel-Fattah Sobhi Radwan, his wife Najlaa Ahmed Aweidah, and their three children, said a relative, Ahmed Barhoum. They were among nearly a million people who have fled to the border city from other parts of Gaza since Israel began its assault on Oct. 7, claiming about 1,200 lives, mostly civilians.

At the hospital, relatives sobbed and hugged the children’s shrouded bodies. One of the dead was just five days old. The family made the harrowing trek to Rafah on foot after being told to leave their house in the southern town of Khan Younis, where they had lived for more than a year. The house was utterly destroyed in the latest escalation in Gaza, which has left more than 34,000 people dead and displaced over a million, most of them refugees from other parts of the Palestinian territory and the neighboring Jewish state of Israel.

A United Nations official warned of the potential ramifications of an Israeli ground offensive in Rafah, which is home to some 70,000 people, 85% of them refugees. “Any large-scale military operation among this population can only add another layer to the endless tragedy that’s unfolding,” UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini said in a statement. The official called for an immediate halt to the fighting and a “sustained cessation of hostilities.”

An Israeli military spokesman said in a written statement that the army had struck two tunnels used by militants to smuggle weapons, food, and medical supplies into Gaza. The spokesman, Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, declined to provide further details.

The spokesman also cited Israeli concern over possible infiltration of its soldiers by Hamas militants into the border area, describing it as “a clear and present danger.”

On Sunday, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, David Satterfield, urged Israel to find alternatives to a full-scale offensive in Rafah. Several other top American officials have spoken out against a potential raid into the coastal enclave, which is host to more than a million people displaced by the war in Gaza, arguing it would lead to a massive humanitarian crisis. But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted on moving ahead with the planned assault despite calls for restraint from the international community.

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