Israel strikes Rafah after US warning against expanding ground offensive to overcrowded city

Israel struck the southern Gaza city of Rafah, following a warning from the Biden administration officials and aid agencies to Israel against expanding its ground offensive in the territory there, according to The Associated Press.

Airstrikes, occurring overnight and into Friday, struck two residential buildings in the southern city. In central Gaza, two other places were bombed, which included a kindergarten that had become a shelter for those who were displaced. AP journalists who saw bodies coming into hospitals reported that 22 people were killed.

On Thursday, President Biden gave some of his most forceful criticism of Israel’s actions in Gaza in remarks from the White House.

“I’m of the view, as you know, that the conduct of the response in Gaza Strip has been over the top,” the president said.

Biden said he had pushed the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, whom he accidentally called the “president of Mexico,” to open gates for humanitarian aid to make its way into Gaza.

“I’ve been pushing really hard, really hard to get humanitarian assistance into Gaza,” Biden said. “There are a lot of innocent people who are starving, lot of innocent people who are in trouble and dying. And it’s got to stop.”

The Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza said that the death toll of Palestinians is now close to 28,000, according to the AP. This toll includes both civilians and combatants.

Israel’s intention for the expansion of the ground offensive into Rafah resulted in American backlash.

“We have yet to see any evidence of serious planning for such an operation,” State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel said Thursday. 

Patel also said that going ahead with the offensive “with no planning and little thought in an area where there is sheltering of a million people would be a disaster.”

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