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Israeli strikes on southern Gaza city of Rafah kill 18, including 14 children : NPR

A young Palestinian mourns his loved one killed during the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip, at the morgue of the Kuwaiti hospital in the Rafah refugee camp, in the south of the Gaza Strip, Saturday April 20, 2024.

Ismaël Abou Dayyah/AP

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Ismaël Abou Dayyah/AP

A young Palestinian mourns his loved one killed during the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip, at the morgue of the Kuwaiti hospital in the Rafah refugee camp, in the south of the Gaza Strip, Saturday April 20, 2024.

Ismaël Abou Dayyah/AP

RAFAH, Gaza Strip — Israeli strikes on the southern Gaza town of Rafah killed 18 people, including 14 children, overnight, health officials said Sunday, as the United States on the verge of approving billions of dollars in additional military aid to their 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.

The first strike killed a man, his wife and their 3-year-old child, according to the nearby Kuwaiti hospital, which received the bodies. The woman was pregnant and doctors managed to save the baby, the hospital said.

The second strike killed eight 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.

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 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. The Israeli military said its troops “neutralized” two Palestinians who attacked a checkpoint with a knife and gun near the southern West Bank city of Hebron early Sunday. It was not immediately clear whether they had been killed. No Israeli forces were injured.

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 Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a deal with Hamas to free the hostages. Netanyahu has vowed to continue the war until Hamas is destroyed and all hostages are returned.

The war has killed at least 34,049 Palestinians and injured 76,901 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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