On Monday, Israeli strikes on the southern city of Rafah in Gaza killed 22 people and injured dozens, according to local health officials. The U.S. President Joe Biden had previously warned Israel not to launch a military operation in Rafah without a credible plan to protect civilians. However, residents reported that heavy bombing caused widespread panic in Rafah, with many people fearing that Israel had begun its ground offensive into the city.
Before previous assaults on Gaza cities, Israel’s military had ordered civilians to leave without preparing any specific evacuation plan. Biden spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday and urged Israel not to launch a military operation in Rafah without a credible plan to ensure the safety of the roughly 1 million people sheltering there. Aid agencies have 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.
The Israeli military announced that it had conducted a “series of strikes” on southern Gaza and that they have now concluded. However, no further details were provided about the targets or casualties. Hamas militants killed 1,200 people in southern Israel and abducted at least 250 in their October 7 incursion, according to Israeli tallies. Hamas-run Aqsa Television on Sunday quoted a senior Hamas leader as saying that any Israeli ground offensive in Rafah will “blow up” the hostage-exchange negotiations.