By NAJIB JOBAIN and SAMY MAGDY (Associated Press)
RAFAH, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israeli forces raided one of the last functioning hospitals in Gaza’s north and bombarded the south with airstrikes that killed at least 28 Palestinians, pressing ahead with their offensive Tuesday with renewed backing from the United States, despite rising international alarm.
In a hospital in the southern Gaza town of Rafah, Mohammed Zaghroub bid farewell to his two children — a 2-year-old boy, and a girl born two weeks ago — killed in a predawn strike on their home. Wounded in the strike, he winced as he peeled back the shrouds to look at their faces as his wife and mother stood by his bed.
“Just two weeks old. Her name hadn’t even been registered,” said the children’s grandmother, Suzan Zoughroub. Addressing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, she cried, “Does he think that by killing these children he will achieve something? Have they succeeded now? Has he achieved what he wants?”
The air and ground war, launched in response to Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack into Israel, has killed nearly 20,000 Palestinians, displaced some 1.9 million, demolished much of northern Gaza and sparked attacks on U.S. and Israeli targets across the region. Hamas has been designated as a terrorist organization by the United States, Canada and the European Union.
Assaults on ships in the Red Sea by Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels have led major shipping companies — as well as the oil and gas giant BP — to suspend trade through the vital waterway, prompting the U.S. and its allies to launch a new mission to counter the threat.
After meeting with Israeli officials Monday, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said protecting Palestinian civilians was “both a moral duty and a strategic imperative” for Israel. He also reiterated America’s support for Israel in its war against Hamas, and said he was “not here to dictate timelines or terms.”
Austin’s remarks signaled that the U.S. would continue shielding Israel from growing international calls for a cease-fire as the United Nations Security Council was set to hold another vote Tuesday —- and would keep providing aid for one of the 21st century’s deadliest military campaigns.
STRIKES ACROSS GAZA
Suzan Zoughroub said her family was asleep when their home was hit before dawn.
“We found the whole house had collapsed over us.” At least 25 people were killed in the strike, along with at least three others in a separate strike in Rafah, according to Associated Press journalists who saw the bodies arrive at two local hospitals early Tuesday.
Rafah, which is in the southern part of Gaza where Israel has told Palestinians to seek shelter, has been repeatedly bombarded, often killing large numbers of civilians.
Israel says it is striking Hamas targets across the territory. The military said Tuesday it had killed a prominent Hamas financier in an airstrike on Rafah, without specifying when it occurred.
Fierce battles also raged in northern Gaza, which has been reduced to a wasteland seven weeks after Israeli tanks and troops stormed in.
Footage online showed a scene of devastation after a strike that hit a local charity in the urban Jabaliya refugee camp, with several torn bodies near a donkey cart on a street filled with rubble and twisted metal. At least 27 people were killed in that strike and others in Jabaliya on Tuesday, according to Munir al-Bursh, a senior Health Ministry official.
The U.N. humanitarian agency OCHA said at least 62 people were reported killed in strikes Sunday and Monday that hit inside Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital. Details on the deaths could not be independently confirmed because communications with the north have become increasingly difficult.
In central Gaza, at least 15 people were killed in strikes overnight, according to hospital records. Among the dead were a mother and her four children, who were killed as they sat around a fire, according to an AP reporter who filmed the aftermath.
The Health Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza said the death toll since the start of the war had risen to more than 19,600. It does not distinguish between civilian and combatant deaths.
Hamas has continued to put up stiff resistance and lob rockets at Israel. Hamas said it fired a barrage toward Tel Aviv on Tuesday, and air raid sirens went off in central Israel. There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage.
The war began after Hamas and other terrorists killed some 1,200 people in Israel, mostly civilians, and abducted 240 others.
Israel’s military says 131 of its soldiers have been killed in the Gaza ground offensive. Israel says it has killed thousands of militants, without providing evidence, and blames civilian deaths on Hamas, saying it uses them as human shields when it fights in residential areas.
Israeli forces raided the Al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza City overnight, according to the church that operates it, destroying a wall at its front entrance and detaining most of its staff.
The facility was the scene of an explosion early in the war that killed dozens of Palestinians, and which an Associated Press investigation later determined was likely caused by a misfired Palestinian rocket.
Don Binder, a pastor at St. George’s Anglican Cathedral, which runs the hospital, said the raid left just two doctors, four nurses and two janitors to tend to over 100 seriously wounded patients, with no running water or electricity.
“It has been a great mercy for the many wounded in Gaza City that we were able to keep our Ahli Anglican Hospital open for so long,” Binder wrote in a Facebook post late Monday. “That ended today.”
He said an Israeli tank was parked on the rubble at the hospital’s entrance, blocking anyone from entering or leaving.
There was no immediate comment from the Israeli military. Forces have raided other hospitals across Gaza, accusing Hamas of using them for military purposes. Hospital staff have denied the allegations and accused Israel of endangering critically ill and wounded civilians.
The military said Tuesday that troops found an explosive device inside a clinic in Shijaiyah, a Gaza City neighborhood that has seen heavy fighting in recent days. It did not say whether the clinic was operational, and in footage released by the military it appeared to have been abandoned.
SECURITY COUNCIL TO VOTE ON NEW TRUCE PROPOSAL
The U.N. Security Council delayed to Tuesday a vote on an Arab-sponsored resolution calling for a halt to hostilities to allow unhindered access to humanitarian aid. Diplomats said negotiations were taking place to get the U.S. to abstain or vote “yes” on the resolution after it vetoed an earlier call for a cease-fire.
France, the United Kingdom and Germany — some of Israel’s closest allies — joined global calls for a cease-fire over the weekend. In Israel, protesters have called for negotiations with Hamas to facilitate the release of scores of hostages still held by the group.
CIA Director William Burns met in Warsaw with the head of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency and the prime minister of Qatar on Monday, the first known meeting of the three since the cease-fire and the release of some 100 hostages in a deal they helped broker.
But U.S. National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said the talks were not “at a point where another deal is imminent.”
Hamas and other terrorists are still holding an estimated 129 captives.
Magdy reported from Cairo. Associated Press writers Tia Goldenberg in Tel Aviv, Israel, and Melanie Lidman in Jerusalem contributed.
Find more of AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war.
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