World

Israeli strikes hit Rafah after warning from President Biden

The Israeli military said it struck ‘terror targets’ in part of the Gaza border town.

Palestinians walk by a residential building destroyed in an Israeli strike in Rafah on Sunday (Hatem Ali/AP)
Israel Palestinians Palestinians walk by a residential building destroyed in an Israeli strike in Rafah on Sunday (Hatem Ali/AP) (Hatem Ali/AP)

A series of Israeli strikes hit Rafah on Monday morning, despite warnings from US President Joe Biden not to conduct a military operation in the Gaza border town without a plan to protect civilians.

The Israeli military said it struck “terror targets in the area of Shaboura”, a district in Rafah.

The military statement said the series of strikes had concluded, without elaborating on the targets or assessing the potential damage or casualties.

An Associated Press journalist in Rafah said strikes hit around Kuwait Hospital where some of those wounded in the strikes had been brought.

Palestinians search for survivors in Rafah (Hatem Ali/AP)
Israel Palestinians Palestinians search for survivors in Rafah (Hatem Ali/AP) (Hatem Ali/AP)

Palestinian health officials did not immediately offer any casualty information.

The White House said Mr Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday there should be no military operation in the densely populated Gaza border town without a “credible” plan to protect civilians.

Around 1.4 million Palestinians have fled to escape fighting elsewhere in the four-month Israel-Hamas war.

Mr Biden’s remarks were his most forceful language yet on the possible operation. Last week he called Israel’s military response in Gaza “over the top” and sought “urgent and specific” steps to strengthen humanitarian aid.

Discussion of the potential for a ceasefire agreement took up much of the call, a senior US administration official said, and after weeks of diplomacy, a “framework” is now “pretty much” in place for a deal that could see the release of remaining hostages held by Hamas in exchange for a halt to fighting.

Mr Netanyahu’s office declined to comment on the call.

Palestinians look at the destruction after an Israeli airstrike in Rafah (Fatima Shbair/AP)
APTOPIX Israel Palestinians Palestinians look at the destruction after an Israeli airstrike in Rafah (Fatima Shbair/AP) (Fatima Shbair/AP)

They spoke after two Egyptian officials and a Western diplomat said Egypt threatened to suspend its peace treaty with Israel if troops are sent into Rafah, where Egypt fears fighting could force the closure of the besieged territory’s main aid supply route.

The threat to suspend the Camp David Accords, a cornerstone of regional stability for nearly a half-century, came after Mr Netanyahu said sending troops into Rafah was necessary to win the four-month war against the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

He asserted that Hamas still has four battalions there.

More than half of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million have fled to Rafah to escape fighting in other areas, and they are packed into sprawling tent camps and UN-run shelters near the border.

Egypt fears a mass influx of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees who may never be allowed to return.

Mr Netanyahu told Fox News Sunday that there is “plenty of room north of Rafah for them to go to” after Israel’s offensive elsewhere in Gaza, and said Israel would direct evacuees with “flyers, with (mobile) phones and with safe corridors and other things”.