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Israeli airstrike in Gaza hits Rafah minutes after evacuation alert

RAFAH, Gaza Strip — Some Palestinians left an area of Rafah near the border with Egypt on Saturday after receiving an evacuation alert from the Israeli army.

Minutes later, a airstrike hit a house in Gaza’s southernmost city. Palestinisn hospital authorities said the fatalities included Abdel-Fattah Sobhi Radwan, his wife Najlaa Ahmed Aweidah and their three children, his brother-in-law Ahmed Barhoum said. Barhoum lost his wife, Rawan Radwan, and their 5-year-old daughter, Alaa.

Also Saturday, an Israeli airstrike hit a house in the urban refugee camp of Bureji in central Gaza, killing at least one man and injuring two others, according to authorities at the al-Aqsa Martyrs hospital.

Israel’s war against the Islamic terrorist group Hamas has led to a dramatic escalation of tensions in the Middle East, notably between Israel and Iran in recent weeks. Now attention returns to Rafah, where more than half of Gaza’s population of about 2.3 million people are sheltering, many displaced by fighting elsewhere.

Israel has insisted for months that it plans a ground offensive into Rafah, where it says many remaining Hamas terrorists are holed up, despite calls for restraint from the international community including Israel’s staunchest ally, the United States.

The war was sparked by an unprecedented Oct. 7 raid into southern Israel by Hamas and other terrorist groups that left about 1,200 people dead, the vast majority civilians, and saw about 250 kidnapped and taken into Gaza. Israel says about 130 hostages remain in Gaza, although more than 30 have died.

Frustration over the nearly seven-month offensive continues among many in Israel, and thousands of anti-government protesters in Tel Aviv again called for new elections and a deal to free remaining hostages. “We don’t know what to do anymore, so we are here crying and shouting for help,” said one protester, Iris Milnar.

The Palestinian death toll from the war is at least 34,049, the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza said. The Hamas-run health authorities do not differentiate between combatants and civilians in their count.

Israel blames Hamas for civilian casualties, saying it embeds in the population.

The war has sent regional tensions spiraling. On Friday, Israel and archenemy Iran played down an apparent Israeli airstrike near a major air base and nuclear site in central Iran, indicating they were pulling back from what could have become all-out war.

A week ago, Iran fired an unprecedented missile barrage on Israel after an alleged Israeli strike killed two Iranian generals at an Iranian consulate in Syria. Iran has long vowed to destroy Israel.

Israel continues to face off with Iran’s proxies, frequently trading rocket and drone attacks across the Lebanese-Israeli border with the Iran-backed Hezbollah terrorist group. Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels have launched strikes against merchant ships in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden in what they call solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza.

Tensions also are high in the West Bank.

The Palestinian Health Ministry said 12 bodies were taken Saturday from the Nur Sham urban refugee camp, raising the death toll to 13 since an Israeli military operation began in the area Thursday night.

The Islamic Jihad terrorist group confirmed the deaths of three members. Another killed was a 15-year-old boy. The Israeli army said its forces killed 10 terrorists in the camp and surrounding areas while eight suspects were arrested. Nine of its officers and soldiers were wounded, it said.

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