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Israeli strikes in Rafah kill 18, mostly children, Palestinian officials say

Israeli strikes on the town of Rafah, in southern Gaza, killed 18 people, including 14 children, overnight, health authorities announced on Sunday. Meanwhile, the United States was about to approve billions of dollars additional military aid to its close ally.

Israel has carried out near-daily air raids on Rafah, where more than half of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents have sought refuge from fighting elsewhere. He also pledged to expand his ground offensive toward the town on the border with Egypt, despite international calls for restraint, including from the United States.

The House of Representatives on Saturday approved a $26 billion aid package, including about $9 billion in humanitarian aid for Gaza. Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told “Face the Nation” on Sunday that he believed the Senate would consider the bill this week. It still requires senators’ approval and President Biden’s signature.

“We must be prepared to defend our national security interests, not only in Ukraine and Russia, also in terms of military assistance to Israel, but also in providing additional humanitarian aid to the Palestinians who face such great challenges” , Warner said on Sunday. .

The first strike killed a man, his wife and their 3-year-old child, according to the nearby Kuwaiti hospital, which received the bodies. Among the dead was a woman who was 27 weeks pregnant, according to the CBS News team on the ground. Doctors were able to keep her baby alive Sunday morning.

Smoke rises following Israeli strikes, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, April 21, 2024.

Mohammed Salem / REUTERS

The second strike killed 13 children and two women, all from the same family, according to hospital records. An airstrike in Rafah the previous night killed nine people, including six children.

For more than two months, Israel has warned that it could send troops to Rafah. The Group of 7, or G7, which includes the United States, Japan and the United Kingdom and whose foreign ministers met last week, warned that a large-scale operation would have catastrophic consequences.

The war between Israel and Hamas has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians, according to local health authorities, devastated Gaza’s two largest cities and left a vast area of ​​destruction across the territory. About 80% of the population has fled their homes to other parts of the besieged coastal enclave, which experts say is on the brink of famine.

The Israel-Hamas conflict, now in its seventh month, has sparked regional unrest pitting Israel and the United States against Iran and allied militant groups in the Middle East. Israel and Iran exchanged direct fire earlier this month, raising fears of an all-out war between the longtime enemies.

Tensions have also increased in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Israeli troops killed two Palestinians who the army said attacked a checkpoint with a knife and gun near the southern West Bank city of Hebron early Sunday. The Palestinian Health Ministry said the two killed were aged 18 and 19 and belonged to the same family. No members of the Israeli forces were injured, the army said.

In the West Bank town of Tulkarem, at least 14 Palestinians were killed in a two-day Israeli Defense Forces operation over the weekend. The Israeli army withdrew from the area on Saturday evening, on a scale that residents say they have never seen in the area before.

The United States has imposed new sanctions on West Bank settlers, as the region has been the scene of violence allegedly carried out by extremist settlers against Palestinians since the start of the war in the neighboring Gaza Strip. A U.S. official told CBS News that since 2022, the organization has been investigating a unit of ultra-Orthodox IDF soldiers accused of human rights atrocities. An announcement is expected this week.

This unit is stationed in the West Bank. Media reports suggesting he could be blacklisted from receiving U.S. military aid prompted an outburst of anger from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said sanctions against any IDF unit would be a moral low at a time when his country is fighting Hamas in Gaza.

Palestinian Red Crescent rescue services said they recovered a total of 14 bodies during an Israeli raid on the West Bank urban refugee camp of Nur Shams that began Thursday evening. Among those killed were three militants from the Islamic Jihad group and a 15-year-old boy. The army claims to have killed 10 militants in the camp and arrested eight suspects. Nine Israeli soldiers and officers were injured.

In another incident in the West Bank, an Israeli man was injured in an explosion on Sunday, the Magen David Adom emergency service said. A video circulating online shows a man approaching a Palestinian flag planted in a field. When he kicks, it appears to trigger an explosive device.

At least 469 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli soldiers and settlers in the West Bank since the start of the Gaza war, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. Most were killed during Israeli military arrest raids, which often trigger shootings, or during violent protests.

The war in Gaza was sparked by an unprecedented October 7 raid in southern Israel, in which Hamas and other militants killed around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapped around 250 hostages . Israel says militants still hold around 100 hostages and the remains of more than 30 others.

Thousands of Israelis took to the streets to demand new elections to replace Netanyahu and a deal with Hamas to release the hostages. Netanyahu has vowed to continue the war until Hamas is destroyed and all hostages are returned.

The war has killed at least 34,000 Palestinians and injured more than 76,000 others, according to Gaza’s health ministry. The ministry does not differentiate between combatants and civilians in its count, but says at least two-thirds are children and women. It also says the actual toll is likely higher because many bodies are trapped under rubble left by airstrikes or are in areas inaccessible to medics.

Israel blames Hamas for civilian casualties because the militants fight in dense residential neighborhoods, but the military rarely comments on individual strikes, which often kill women and children. The army claims to have killed more than 13,000 Hamas fighters, without providing evidence.

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