Gaza official says Israeli strike kills 9 family members in Rafah

AFP , Saturday 20 Apr 2024

Gaza's civil defence agency said Saturday an overnight Israeli strike killed nine members of a Palestinian family, including six children, in southern city Rafah.

A young Palestinian boy mourns over the bodies of children killed by Israeli bombing in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on April 20, 2024. AFP


Five children aged one to seven and a 16-year-old girl were among those killed, along with two women and a man, according to the city's Al Najjar hospital.

"Nine martyrs, including six children, were pulled out from the rubble after Israeli air forces struck a house of the Radwan family in Tal al-Sultan in Rafah," Gaza Civil Defence agency spokesman Mahmud Bassal said in a statement.

Outside the hospital an AFP journalist saw people grieving over small body bags. A woman stroked a dead boy's forehead as planes rumbled overhead.

"People were sleeping peacefully," said neighbour Abu Mohammed Ziyadah.

"As you can see, there were no militants, not even male adults, except for the head of the family. They were all women and children."

'Very hard night'

Soon after the Israeli wa on Gaza began on October 7, Israel ordered Palestinians living in the north of Gaza to move to so-called "safe zones" in the territory's south such as Rafah.

But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has since vowed to invade the city, where around 1.5 million people -- more than half the territory's population -- are sheltering.

Israel has for two months threatened to send troops into the city along the Egyptian border, but even without such an operation Rafah is under regular bombardment.

Bassal said the Israeli army struck several areas of Rafah overnight, including Salam neighbourhood where one person was killed and several wounded. He said the army hit a house and a nursery school.

"It has been a very hard night on Rafah," he said.

Rafah resident Adnan al-Arja said "even the cemetery was not spared from the bombing" in his neighbourhood.

"This is Rafah, which they say is safe for the displaced to head to," he said.

On Saturday, a UN aid source dismissed Israeli media reports that more than 200,000 people had left Rafah and moved north after Israeli troops pulled back from Gaza's main southern city Khan Younis earlier this month.

The source said people regularly go back and forth to check their houses and belongings.

They often find their homes in ruins.

A spokesman for the Hamas government in Gaza also dismissed the report, while the Israeli defence ministry body responsible for Palestinian civil affairs, COGAT, did not comment.

*This story was edited by Ahram Online

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