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    Sunday, May 19, 2024

    Israeli airstrike in Gaza's south kills at least 9 Palestinians in Rafah, including 6 children

    A Palestinian youth mourns his relative killed in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip, at the morgue of the Kuwaiti Hospital in Rafah refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, early Saturday, April 20, 2024. (AP Photo/Ismael Abu Dayyah)

    Rafah, Gaza Strip — An Israeli airstrike on a house in Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah killed at least nine people, six of them children, hospital authorities said Saturday, as Israel pursued its nearly seven-month offensive in the besieged Palestinian territory.

    Israel's war against the Islamic militant 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.

    Relatives sobbed and hugged children's shrouded bodies at al-Najjar hospital. “Hamza my beloved. Your hair looks so pretty,” a mourning grandmother 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.

    "This is a world devoid of all human values and morals,” Barhoum told The Associated Press, crying as he cradled Alaa's body. “The only martyrs were women and children.”

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

    Some Palestinians left an area of Rafah near the border with Egypt on Saturday after receiving an evacuation alert from the Israeli army. “Guys, they will strike at 3:40. It is happening. What time is it now?” one said. Minutes later, a strike hit. It was not immediately known whether anyone was killed.

    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, where an AP journalist saw the casualties.

    The war was sparked by an unprecedented Oct. 7 raid into southern Israel by Hamas and other militant 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 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, with 76,901 wounded, the Gaza Health Ministry said, adding that the bodies of 37 people killed by Israeli strikes were taken to hospitals over the past 24 hours. The Hamas-run health authorities do not differentiate between combatants and civilians in their count but say at least two-thirds have been children and women.

    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.

    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 militant 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 occupied 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. It said they were killed “as a result of the occupation’s aggression."

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

    At least 469 Palestinians from east Jerusalem and the West Bank have been killed by Israeli fire since October, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.

    Elsewhere in the West Bank, the ministry said an ambulance driver was shot dead near Sawiya town while trying to reach Palestinians injured in clashes with Israeli settlers. The Palestinian Red Crescent said Mohammed Musa was shot in the chest. A wave of settler attacks began a week ago after an Israeli teen went missing and was found dead.

    Magdy reported from Cairo. Associated Press writer Jack Jeffrey in Jerusalem contributed.

    A Palestinian man sits while mourning his relative killed in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip at the morgue of the Kuwaiti Hospital in Rafah refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, early Saturday, April 20, 2024. (AP Photo/Ismael Abu Dayyah)
    People protest against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government and call for the release of hostages held in the Gaza Strip by the Hamas militant group, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Saturday, April 20, 2024. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)
    A young Palestinian wounded in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip is brought to the Kuwaiti Hospital in Rafah refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, early Saturday, April 20, 2024. (AP Photo/Ismael Abu Dayyah)
    Smoke rises from an explosion during an Israeli military raid in the Nur Shams refugee camp, near the West Bank town of Tulkarem, Saturday, April 20, 2024. The raid killed at least four Palestinians, including three militants, according to the Israeli military, Palestinian health officials and the Islamic Jihad militant group. Palestinian health authorities said one of those killed was a 15-year-old boy shot dead by Israeli fire. The Israeli military said four Israeli soldiers were slightly wounded in the operation. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)
    Supporters of the religious party Jamaat-e-Islami take part in a rally against Israeli airstrikes on Gaza and to show solidarity with the Palestinians, in Lahore, Pakistan, Saturday, April 20, 2024. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)
    A Palestinian wounded in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip is brought to the Kuwaiti Hospital in Rafah refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, early Saturday, April 20, 2024. (AP Photo/Ismael Abu Dayyah)
    EDS NOTE: NUDITY - Palestinian medics treat a wounded child in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip at the Kuwaiti Hospital in Rafah refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, late Friday, April 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Ismael Abu Dayyah)
    Ashraf Bani Jama' escorts the body of his son, Muhammad Bani Jama', who was shot and killed along with Abdul Rahman Bani Fadl in an Israeli settler attack earlier this week, according to Israeli Army Radio, during their funeral in the West Bank city of Nablus, Saturday, April 20, 2024. According to the Palestinian official state news agency, WAFA, the settlers were backed by the Israeli Army as they attacked the Khirbet at-Tawil area, near Nablus. Their bodies were handed over to Palestinian officials by Israel overnight. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)
    Palestinian medics carry a young wounded in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip, to the Kuwaiti Hospital in Rafah refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, early Saturday, April 20, 2024. (AP Photo/Ismael Abu Dayyah)
    EDS NOTE: GRAPHIC CONTENT - A Palestinian youth seriously wounded in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip is brought to the Kuwaiti Hospital in Rafah refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, late Friday, April 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Ismael Abu Dayyah)
    Israeli military vehicles drive during a military operation in the nearby Nur Shams refugee camp, near the West Bank town of Tulkarem, Saturday, April 20, 2024. The raid killed at least four Palestinians, including three militants, according to the Israeli military, Palestinian health officials and the Islamic Jihad militant group. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)
    An Israeli military vehicle drives through water during a military operation in the nearby Nur Shams refugee camp, near the West Bank town of Tulkarem, Saturday, April 20, 2024. The raid killed at least four Palestinians, including three militants, according to the Israeli military, Palestinian health officials and the Islamic Jihad militant group. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)
    People gather around a component from an intercepted ballistic missile that fell near the Dead Sea in Israel, Saturday, April 20, 2024. Open fighting between Israel and Iran began April 1 with the suspected Israeli killing of Iranian generals at an Iranian diplomatic compound in Syria. That prompted Iran's retaliatory barrage last weekend of more than 300 missiles and drones that the U.S., Israel and regional and international partners helped bat down without significant damage in Israel. And then came Friday's strikes that hit near military and nuclear targets in Iran. (AP Photo/Itamar Grinberg)

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