Israeli strikes on Rafah raise fear ground assault could begin

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Israel bombed at least four homes in Rafah on Wednesday, raising new fear 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.

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.

The Israeli military says it is targeting armed Hamas militants who use civilian buildings, including apartment blocks and hospitals, for cover. Hamas denies doing so.