Netanyahu's planned offensive on Rafah, where an estimated 1.3 million people have fled, has drawn condemnation from rights groups and Washington, while Palestinians have said they have nowhere left to retreat.
Witnesses reported new strikes on Rafah early Saturday after the Israeli military intensified air raids, with fears rising among Palestinians of a coming ground invasion.
"We don't know where to go," said Mohammad Al-Jarrah, a Palestinian who was displaced from further north to Rafah.
The city is the last major population centre in the Gaza Strip that Israeli troops have yet to enter and also the main point of entry for desperately needed relief supplies.
Netanyahu told military officials on Friday to "submit to the cabinet a combined plan for evacuating the population and destroying the battalions" of Hamas militants holed up in Rafah, his office said.
The US State Department said it does not support a ground offensive in Rafah, warning that, if not properly planned, such an operation risks "disaster."
The United States is Israel's main international backer, providing it with billions of dollars in military aid. But in a sign of growing frustration, US President Joe Biden issued his strongest criticism of Israel yet, describing the retaliation for Hamas's 7 October attack as going too far.
"I'm of the view, as you know, that the conduct of the response in Gaza, in the Gaza Strip, has been over the top," the US president said.
"There are a lot of innocent people who are starving... in trouble and dying, and it's got to stop."
22:30 The Board of Trustees of the National Dialogue affirmed on Saturday its complete rejection of the statements of US President Joseph Biden with incorrect claims about Egypt’s position on opening the Rafah crossing from the Egyptian side to the under-Israeli siege Gaza Strip.
In a statement, the trustee board explained: "The crossing was not closed by Egypt at any time since the start of the brutal Israeli aggression on Gaza, or before, is a fact known to everyone."
"It is odd and striking that the president of the largest country in the world is unaware of or is misinformed on the facts," read the statement.
The trustee board said: "What is now required of the American President is not to publish what is not true about the Egyptian role - but rather to use his country’s close relations with Israel to stop its bloody aggression against Gaza and prevent it from a ground assault on the area that is housing 1.3 million displaced Palestinians."
The statement asked the US president "to visit the Gaza Strip to see with his own eyes the extent of the largest humanitarian catastrophe in contemporary global history committed by his ally Israel, instead of making such incorrect statements, and perhaps then try to stop this crime."
On Thursday, the Egyptian Presidency rejected the remarks made by US President Joe Biden suggesting that Egypt was initially reluctant to open the Rafah crossing during the Israeli war on Gaza, to allow aid to reach the residents of the strip.
Since the start of the Israeli aggression and blockade against Gaza on 7 October, Cairo has facilitated the entry of thousands of trucks from multiple countries carrying humanitarian aid to 2.4 million Palestinians under siege in the strip.
21:00 Saudi Arabia said on Saturday that Israel's planned army operation in overcrowded Rafah would cause a "humanitarian catastrophe" and called for the United Nations Security Council to intervene.
The kingdom "warned of the hazardous repercussions of storming and targeting" Rafah and affirmed its "categorical rejection and strong condemnation of their forced deportation," in a foreign ministry statement carried by state media.
"This continued violation of international law and international humanitarian law confirms the necessity of convening the Security Council urgently to prevent Israel from causing an imminent humanitarian catastrophe," the statement added.
On Wednesday, Saudi Arabia told Washington it will not establish ties with Israel until an independent Palestinian state "is recognized," the Gulf kingdom's foreign ministry said in a statement.
"The Kingdom has communicated its firm position to the US administration that there will be no diplomatic relations with Israel unless an independent Palestinian state is recognized on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital," read the statement published by the official Saudi Press Agency.
Israeli "aggression" in Gaza must also stop and all Israeli forces must withdraw from the besieged territory, the statement said.
A meeting convened in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Thursday to address the ongoing Israeli aggression in the Gaza Strip and explore potential solutions.
Organized at the invitation of Saudi Arabia, the gathering aimed to tackle the escalating tensions and humanitarian crisis resulting from over four months of relentless Israeli attacks on Gaza.
Led by Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan, the meeting brought together the foreign ministers of Egypt, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Jordan, alongside a senior Palestinian official.
Participants stressed the urgent necessity to halt the Israeli war in Gaza and achieve an immediate and comprehensive ceasefire.
They emphasized the paramount importance of protecting civilians under international humanitarian law and removing all barriers hindering the delivery of vital humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip.
Moreover, attendees reiterated their steadfast support for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, UNRWA, urging all stakeholders to fulfill their humanitarian obligations toward Palestinian refugees.
During the Riyadh consultation meeting, diplomats reiterated the call for "irreversible" steps towards the recognition of a Palestinian state.
Recognizing Palestine as an independent state along the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital, by relevant international resolutions, was underscored as a pivotal element towards achieving a just and lasting peace.
20:00 A Palestinian nurse braved gunfire from an Israeli sniper to save a man who was shot by the invisible killer in the vicinity of Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, which has endured Israeli siege and bombardment for weeks.
In a video posted on Al Jazeera, the female nurse ducks as she crosses a narrow alley to save the injured man.
A few young men sprint with a stretcher after the nurse to ferry the wounded man into the hospital.
19:00 Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was interrupted by protesters who shouted "war criminal" and "Free Palestine" as she spoke at a conference on Friday at Columbia University on preventing sexual violence globally.
Protesters called Clinton, a former first lady (1992-2000) and presidential candidate in 2016, on her longstanding support of Israel in its various wars on the Palestinians, including the current war on Gaza, and her backing of various American military campaigns in Syria, Yemen, and Iraq.
For months now, many American officials, including President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, have been subjected on multiple occasions to interruptions to various public speeches and appearances by protesters who have been demanding the US end its support for the Israeli war on Gaza.
18:00 A total of 17 Houthi fighters were killed in US strikes, the Iran-backed Yemeni rebel group said through its official media Saturday, following public funerals in the capital Sanaa.
"The bodies of several martyrs of the nation and the armed and security forces who were martyred as a result of the bombing of the American-British aggression were carried through Sanaa today in a solemn funeral procession," Houthi official media said, listing their names.
The United States confirmed on Thursday that its military had conducted several strikes against missile launchers as Houthi fighters prepared to launch them against commercial shipping and US warships in the Red Sea.
The Iran-backed rebels, who control much of war-torn Yemen including the port of Hodeida, have been targeting shipping in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden in a campaign they say is in support of Palestinians in Gaza, which has been ravaged by the Israeli war on Gaza.
US and British forces have responded with strikes against the Huthis, who have since declared both country's interests to be legitimate targets as well.
17:00 The bodies of six-year-old Hind Rajab and her family were laid to rest on Saturday after the discovery of their bodies following a two-week search.
In late January, Hind was hiding in a car that came under Israeli tank fire in Gaza City when she was injured and lay there surrounded by the bodies of her deceased relatives.
The Palestinian Red Cross Society (PRCS) set out to rescue the girl after coordinating a retrieval operation with the Israeli army.
On Saturday, the PRCS ambulance carrying Hind and the rescue workers was discovered burnt to a metal chassis.
The PRCS and the health ministry in Gaza accused Israel of targeting the rescue crew.
The case of Hind Rajab highlights the deadly attacks by the Israeli army on hundreds of emergency medical workers and ambulances while attempting to save lives after Israeli airstrikes and bombardment.
UN Middle East Peace Coordinator Tor Wennesland expressed his inability to fathom the horrors experienced by Palestinian child Hind. He emphasized that Hind's case is just one among numerous tragic incidents unfolding in Gaza.
The body of the six-year-old Hind is about to be laid to rest in Gaza after her body was found inside her family car, 12 days after being missing following an Israeli bombardment that targeted the car in Gaza City. pic.twitter.com/ZbndnDkeOt
16:00 A group of cyclists called The Big Ride for Palestine have started long journeys from disparate regions of the United Kingdom to raise awareness for Palestine.
Carrying Palestinian flags and attaching them to their bicycles, Cyclist groups have gathered in the British cities of Sheffield, Bristol, and Birmingham to raise money to aid Gaza.
Since the start of the Israeli war on Gaza, the cyclist collective has had many rides supporting Palestinians in a growing number of locales across Britain.
The Big Ride for Palestine is a remarkable initiative driven by passionate supporters of the Palestinian cause.
The mission highlights the urgent need to shed light on the Israeli occupation of Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem.
The organizers of The Big Ride for Palestine say they firmly believe that drawing attention to these injustices can contribute to the global discourse on ensuring justice, peace, and the upholding of international law in the region.
Since its inception in 2015, The Big Ride for Palestine has achieved remarkable success in its fundraising efforts.
Over five years, they have managed to raise an impressive sum of over £300,000 for the Middle East Children's Alliance (MECA) charity.
15:30 The health ministry in the Gaza Strip on Saturday said that at least 28,064 people have been killed in the besieged territory during the war between Palestinian militants and Israel.
The latest toll includes 117 deaths over the past 24 hours, a ministry statement said, while a total of 67,611 people have been wounded in Gaza since the war broke out on 7 October, it added.
A Palestinian man carries the body of a child killed in overnight Israeli bombardment on the southern Gaza Strip, at Al-Najjar hospital in Rafah, on February 10, 2024. AFP
15:00 A new directive by President Joe Biden appeared to ease a split among Democrats over his military support for Israel's war in Gaza, with lawmakers on Friday praising the order authorizing a swift cutoff of military aid to countries that violate international protections of civilians.
For Biden, the commitment to conditioning US military aid for Israel and other allies and strategic partners will help him shore up support among centre-left Senate Democrats for his proposed $95 billion supplemental assistance package, which is aimed primarily at military aid for Ukraine in its war with Russia and for Israel in its war against Hamas in Gaza.
Democratic senators on Friday called Biden's directive — meant to bring breadth, oversight, deadlines, and teeth to efforts to ensure foreign governments do not use US military aid against civilians — historic.
“This is a sea-change in terms of how you approach US military aid and its impact on civilians,” Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren said. She spoke at a capitol news conference with other Democrats who have negotiated with the White House for two months on the matter, in an effort led by Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen.
Human rights advocates said the challenge for the new directive would be the same faced by all previous efforts to withhold US weapons and funding from human rights abusers — whether the administrations will enforce the human rights conditions against strategically important allies and partners.
“The issue was never knowledge” of US military aid being used in violation of international law “so much as enforcement,” said Kenneth Roth, a former head of Human Rights Watch and a visiting professor at Princeton School of Public and International Affairs.
14:20 Hamas warned on Saturday that Israel's planned army operation in overcrowded Rafah could cause "tens of thousands" of casualties in the city that has become the last refuge for displaced Palestinians.
Even before such an operation, Israel pounded Rafah with strikes after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the military to set its sights on the southern city.
These strikes were often targeted at civilian structures and vehicles, with some hitting specific refugee camps, including the Tal Al-Sultan refugee camp in Rafah.
Netanyahu on Friday told officials to "submit to the cabinet a combined plan for evacuating the population and destroying the battalions" of Hamas in Rafah, only hours after US President Joe Biden issued his strongest criticism of Israel's response to the 7 October attack.
The plan drew condemnation from the office of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
"The Israeli occupation's move threatens security and peace in the region and the world. This is a blatant violation of all red lines," it said in a statement.
Currently, about 1.5 million Palestinian refugees find themselves in Rafah without adequate food, water, or shelter.
14:00 Six-year-old Hind Rajab's body was recovered on Saturday, alongside relatives and two Palestinian Red Cross Society (PRCS) rescue workers after more than two weeks of frantic efforts to reach her.
The PRCS ambulance was found only a few metres from the car Hind was hiding in.
The ambulance, with those in it, was reduced to a burnt metal chassis, even after the PRCS coordinated the rescue effort of the six-year-old girl with the Israeli government.
Hind pleaded to be rescued after her family's car came under fire in war-ravaged Gaza City, leaving her alone, frightened, and injured, surrounded by the bodies of her dead relatives.
"I am so scared," she had said in a desperate phone call to the PRCS. "Call someone to come get me, please."
The aid agency and the health ministry in the Gaza Strip confirmed the grim discovery and blamed Israeli forces.
Hamas urged human rights groups and the international community to document what it called a "horrific crime."
Hind's highly publicized case comes as aid agencies' warnings that children and families are bearing the brunt of Israel's war with Hamas.
Children are dying "at an alarming rate" in Gaza, the UN children's agency UNICEF said.
Thousands have been killed and many more injured, with others at risk because of lack of food, water, and medicine, the UN children's agency UNICEF said.
13:30 The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has announced that it will conduct public hearings regarding the legal consequences arising from Israel's policies and practices in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.
The hearings are in response to a request for an advisory opinion and will take place from Monday, 19 February, to Monday, 26 February, at the Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands.
A total of 52 states and three international organizations have expressed their intention to participate in the oral proceedings before the court.
The hearings will feature representatives from various countries, including Palestine, Netherlands, Bangladesh, South Africa, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Belgium, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, and others.
The schedule for the hearings has been set, with each participating country or organization allocated a specific time slot.
The proceedings will commence with the opening and the State of Palestine presenting its case. The hearings will continue throughout the week, with different countries presenting their arguments and perspectives.
Diplomats from non-participating states can follow the proceedings in a separate room at the Academy Building on the Peace Palace grounds.
The historic ruling recently issued by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in late January in the case brought by South Africa accusing Israel of committing genocide in Gaza has mandated Israel carry out several concrete actions to ensure its compliance with the Genocide Convention in its war in Gaza.
Israel should “take all measures within its power” to prevent “the destruction of Palestinian life in Gaza” and allow “access to humanitarian assistance,” said the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the case brought against Israel on charges of committing genocide in Gaza.
While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the court’s ruling as “outrageous,” South Africa hailed a “significant milestone in the search for justice for the Palestinian people”.
Palestine’s foreign minister said the ICJ had “ruled in favour of humanity and international law.”
13:00 An Israeli teacher who was locked up for opposing Israeli atrocities in Gaza spoke up after being released.
"Here in Israel, for generations, we killed Palestinians," declared Meir Baruchin, 62, an Israeli history teacher.
Speaking against Israeli crimes that predate the start of the war, the history teacher listed heinous acts: "We demolish their houses here in Jerusalem. We cut down their olive trees. We confiscate their property, their waters."
Addressing Hamas' actions, Baruchin said that this is "the realistic conclusion" for decades of "general occupation."
He said that Israelis are not allowed to show even the slightest sympathy towards Gazaans living under constant bombardment for fear of being "politically persecuted."
"You will go through public shaming, you will lose your job - and in my case, be put in jail," he added.
Addressing how Israeli authorities treated him, he said: "They wished me to die, they wished my children to die, they threatened to rape my daughter."
Baruchin spoke about his experience as a history teacher when his students violently demonstrated against him, effectively locking and putting him "under siege inside the teacher's room."
"Dozens of students were on the windows, cursing me" he added.
Israelis and more generally Jews who have shown sympathy for the plights of innocent civilians in Gaza being subjected to relentless Israeli bombardments have been labeled "self-hating Jews" risking ostracisation and other more extreme repercussions.
11:00 Israeli airstrikes hit several sites on the outskirts of Syria's capital, Damascus, the Syrian military said Saturday.
The strikes came from the direction of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, Syrian state news agency SANA reported, citing an unnamed military official. It added that air defenses shot down some and those that landed resulted in “some material losses.” It was not immediately clear if there were casualties.
There was no immediate comment from Israel.
The strikes come as tensions across the Middle East grow with the Israeli war on Gaza and a drone attack last month that killed three U.S. troops in northeastern Jordan near the Syrian border.
10:00 US President Joe Biden announced his decision late Friday to send CIA Director Bill Burns to Cairo to participate in negotiations with Hamas aiming at releasing captives, according to Axios and PBS News.
A November truce that broke down over a week saw the release of 105 of the captives. Israel says around 132 remain, including the bodies of at least 28 dead captives.
Hamas had announced on Thursday that its delegation has arrived in Cairo "to resume talks on a ceasefire,” as Egypt is hosting on Thursday a new round of truce talks in sponsorship with Qatar.
In a press release, Hamas stated that "a delegation from the movement, led by Khalil Al-Hayya, deputy head of the movement in Gaza, arrived in Cairo on Thursday morning to continue discussions regarding the ceasefire."
On Wednesday, Al-Qahera News TV, citing an Egyptian official source, reported that the talks, sponsored by Egypt and Qatar, will primarily focus on pursuing a truce in the war-torn strip and facilitating a swap deal of captives.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken left the Middle East on Thursday with public divisions between the United States and Israel at perhaps their worst level since Israel’s war on Gaza began in October.
Wrapping up a four-nation Mideast trip — his fifth to the region since the war erupted — Blinken was returning to Washington after getting a virtual slap in the face from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said the war would continue until Israel is completely victorious and rejected outright a response from Hamas to a proposed cease-fire plan.
Relations between Israel and its main international ally, the United States, have been tense for months, but Netanyahu's public dismissal of a plan the U.S. says has merit, at least as a starting point for further negotiation, highlighted the divide.
09:30 WHO representative Tarik Jasarevic stated on Friday that there have been at least 350 attacks targeting medical care facilities in Gaza since the onset of the war.
These attacks have affected the healthcare facilities, staff, and those sheltering inside the hospitals.
“These attacks have affected 98 healthcare facilities, including 27 hospitals damaged out of 36, and affected 90 ambulances, including 50 which sustained damage,” Jasarevic added.
He commented on the tremendous loss of life and extraordinary risks healthcare professionals are taking while working inside the besieged Gaza Strip saying "A total of 645 people have died since 7 October and another 818 were injured as a result of these incidents."
Recently, the Al Nasser Hospital complex in Khan Younis came under heavy Israeli strikes during the night resulting in the deaths of "several" people sheltering inside, according to the Health Ministry in Gaza.
The hospital's staff were unable to navigate inside the building after many segments of the complex were reduced to rubble, as the latest attack on a hospital in Gaza took place.
Previously. Israeli attacks have sought to cripple the already faltering healthcare infrastructure in Gaza aiming at hospitals that serviced hundreds of people and sheltered refugees fleeing Israeli bombardment including; Al Shifa Hospital, Al Ahli Hospital, Al Rantisi Hospital, and the Indonesian Hospital among others.
More than half of man-made structures in Gaza have been reduced to rubble as a direct result of the Israeli war on Gaza.