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On Monday, Israeli strikes on the southern city of Rafah killed 22 people and wounded dozens, according to local health officials. After U.S. President Joe Biden urged Israel not to attack Rafah without a credible plan to protect civilians, residents reported that heavy bombing caused widespread panic in the city. Some feared Israel had begun its ground offensive into Rafah.

The Israeli military conducted a “series of strikes” on southern Gaza before stating that the operation has now ended. However, before previous assaults on Gaza cities, Israel’s military did not provide any specific evacuation plan for civilians.

Biden spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday and advised against launching a military operation in Rafah without a credible plan to ensure the safety of the nearly 1 million people living there. Aid agencies warned that an attack on Rafah would be catastrophic as it is the last relatively safe place in an enclave devastated by Israel’s military offensive.

The U.S leader expressed grave concern over the rising civilian death toll in Gaza after speaking with Netanyahu for about 45 minutes, days after he condemned Israel’s response as “over the top” and said he was worried about the human cost of the conflict. The Hamas-run health ministry reported that Israel has responded with a military assault on Gaza that has killed more than 28,000 Palestinians since 2007. Hamas militants killed 1,200 people and abducted at least 250 during their October 7 incursion into southern Israel, according to Israeli tallies. Additionally, Hamas-run Aqsa Television quoted a senior Hamas leader as saying that any Israeli ground offensive in Rafah will “blow up” hostage-exchange negotiations between Hamas and Israel

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