More Rafah strikes raise fears of all-out Israeli assault

More Rafah strikes raise fears of all-out Israeli assault

• 76 killed in 24 hours; death toll rises to nearly 32,500
• Gazans decry Tel Aviv’s disdain for UNSC ceasefire resolution
• US, UK sanction Gaza Now channel

GAZA STRIP: Israel bombed at least four homes in Rafah on Wednesday, raising fresh fears among the more than a million Palestinians sheltering in the last refuge on the southern edge of the Gaza Strip that a long-threatened ground assault could be coming.

One of the airstrikes killed 11 people from a single family, health officials said.

The health ministry said on Wednesday that at least 32,490 people have been killed in the territory during more than five months of war between Israel and Hamas.

The toll includes at least 76 deaths over the past 24 hours, a ministry statement said, adding that 74,889 people have been wounded in the Gaza Strip since the Israeli invasion began on October 7.

Fighting has raged since last week around Gaza City’s Al-Shifa Hospital, the territory’s largest, and more recently near two hospitals in the main southern city of Khan Yunis, Al-Amal and Nasser.

Israeli tanks and armoured vehicles have also massed around the Nasser Hospital, the Gaza health ministry said, adding that shots were fired but no raid had yet been launched.

The Palestinian Red Crescent warned that thousands were trapped inside and “their lives are in danger”.

Talks in Qatar towards a truce and prisoner release deal, involving US and Egyptian mediators, have brought no result so far, with Israel and Hamas blaming each other.

Disdain for UN resolution

One of Wednesday’s airstrikes killed 11 people from a single family, health officials said.

Mussa Dhaheer, looking on from below as neighbours helped an emergency worker lower a victim in a black body bag from an upper storey, said he had awakened to the blast, kissed his terrified daughter, and rushed outside to find the destruction. His father, 75, and mother, 62, were among the dead.

“I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to say. I can’t make sense of what happened. My parents. My father with his displaced friends who came from Gaza City,” he told Reuters. “They were all together, when suddenly they were all gone like dust.”

At another bomb site, Jamil Abu Houri said the intensification of air strikes was Israel’s way of showing its disdain for a UN Security Council resolution last week demanding an immediate Israel-Hamas ceasefire.

Next up, he fears a ground assault on Rafah, which Israel has threatened for weeks to carry out despite pleas from its closest ally Washington that this would wreak a humanitarian disaster.

“The bombing has increased, and they have threatened us with an incursion, and they say that have been given the green light for the Rafah incursion. Where is the Security Council?” Abu Houri said.

“Look at our little ones. Look at our children. Where should we go? Where should we go?” Another Israeli airstrike in Rafah on Wednesday afternoon killed four Palestinians including a woman and a child and injured other residents, Gaza health authorities said.

Just west of Gaza City in the enclave’s north, seven people were killed in an airstrike on a house, health officials said.

US, UK sanction media channel

In a relevant development, US and UK authorities unveiled sanctions against two people and three companies related to the popular media channel Gaza Now over its fundraising efforts, allegedly in support of Hamas.

The Treasury Department said in a statement that Gaza Now, whose popular Telegram channel has more than 1.8 million followers, and its founder Mustafa Ayash, started fundraising for Hamas after October 7.

“The UK Government has announced a full asset freeze against two individuals suspected of providing financial support for Gaza Now,” the UK Treasury said in a statement.

“All funds and economic resources in the UK belonging to or controlled by Sultana and Ayash have been frozen,” they added.

Published in Dawn, March 28th, 2024


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