Israeli bombs claiming more lives

People dig graves for Palestinians killed during Israeli strikes at a cemetery in Rafah, on the southern Gaza Strip. Picture: Reuters

People dig graves for Palestinians killed during Israeli strikes at a cemetery in Rafah, on the southern Gaza Strip. Picture: Reuters

Published Feb 22, 2024


Israel stepped up its bombardment of the southern city of Rafah, residents said on Wednesday, as the death toll in the war across the devastated Palestinian strip rose to 29 313, according to the Gaza health ministry.

In its daily summary of events in Gaza, the Israeli army said it had intensified its operations in Khan Younis, a city just north of Rafah. It did not mention any attacks on Rafah itself, and did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

About 1.5 million people are said to be crammed into Rafah, on the southernmost fringe of the enclave close to the boundary with Egypt, most of them having fled their homes further north to escape Israel’s military onslaught.

Israel has said it was preparing for a ground assault on Rafah, despite mounting opposition from foreign countries, including its staunch ally the US, over concern for civilian lives.

Residents said Israeli tanks had advanced west from Khan Younis into Al-Mawasi, previously an area of relative safety where the army had told Palestinians to seek shelter.

The tanks reached the coastal road, effectively cutting off Khan Younis and Rafah from the rest of the strip, though they retreated after a few hours, according to residents.

Rafah residents reached by text message reported several air strikes and large explosions in the city, as well as naval boats opening fire on beachfront areas.

Reuters video journalists filmed the aftermath of a strike on the home of the Al-Noor family in Rafah, which was reduced to rubble, showing more than a dozen bodies wrapped in white or black shrouds and bereaved relatives at a Rafah hospital.

Abdulrahman Juma said his wife Noor, who was from the Al-Noor family, as well as his one-year-old daughter Kinza, had both been killed in the strike, along with Noor’s parents, brother and other relatives.

Juma was holding Kinza’s body, wrapped in a bloodstained white shroud. “This one, who is on my lap, took my soul away ... She is one-and-a-half years old,” he said.

At the site of the bombed house, neighbours and relatives vented their anger at the US, which on Tuesday vetoed a draft UN Security Council resolution calling for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza.

“Since October 7 and until this moment, the US has been supporting Israel with rockets, aircrafts and tanks.

All of these massacres are because of America,” said Youssef Sheikh Al-Eid, whose brother had been living in the bombed house.

Residents of Deir Al-Balah in central Gaza and Khan Younis also reported overnight strikes and deaths, and multiple funerals were taking place on Wednesday.

The Israel Defence Forces’ daily summary mentioned a targeted raid in the Zaytun area in northern Gaza, and operations in Khan Younis.

“Troops of the Givati Brigade conducted activities in eastern Khan Younis and killed approximately 20 terrorists in encounters over the past day,” it said.

“IDF Paratroopers expanded activities in western Khan Younis, targeting and killing terrorists with precise sniper fire and striking terror infrastructure.

Additionally, two armed terrorists on bicycles approached IDF troops, who responded and killed them.”

Gaza’s health ministry said a total of 69 333 people had been injured in Gaza since the start of the war on October 7, in addition to the 29 313 deaths, with 118 killed in the past 24 hours. The war was triggered by Hamas militants who attacked southern Israel on October 7, killing 1 200 people and taking 253 hostage, according to Israel.

Israel has responded with an air and ground assault on Gaza that has displaced most of the population of 2.3 million, caused widespread hunger and laid waste to much of the territory.

Meanwhile, an Israeli strike killed a woman and a child in south Lebanon on Wednesday, sources in Lebanon said, days after Hezbollah vowed to inflict a price on Israel for killing civilians in the conflict across the Israeli-Lebanese border.

Israeli army spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Avichay Adraee said the Israeli army had carried out an attack on “a military building” in the village of Yaroun in southern Lebanon, and that Israeli warplanes had launched raids on three Hezbollah operational headquarters in the south.

It did not mention Majdal Zoun, which is about an hour’s drive from Yaroun.

Hezbollah plans to escalate attacks on Israel in response to the deaths of 10 Lebanese civilians killed in Israeli attacks last week. Hezbollah announced more than half a dozen attacks on Israeli positions on Wednesday.

Israeli strikes since October 8 have killed some 50 civilians in Lebanon, in addition to nearly 200 Hezbollah fighters. Attacks from Lebanon into Israel have killed a dozen Israeli troops and five civilians.

The violence has uprooted tens of thousands of people on both sides of the border.

Cape Times