RAFAH (Dispatches) --
Dozens of people, including children, have been killed as “extremely intense” Israeli airstrikes and shelling pounded multiple locations in Rafah overnight Monday, according to the Palestine Red Crescent Society, as international alarm mounted over the Zionist regime’s planned ground invasion of the southern city in the besieged Gaza Strip.
More than 100 people were martyred due to Israeli airstrikes as warplanes targeted different areas of the city and helicopters fired machine guns along the border areas, the PRCS said early Monday.
There are fears the death toll could rise further as the PRCS said people remain trapped under the rubble and there is still a heavy presence of warplanes in the skies over Rafah.
The director of Abu Yousef Al-Najjar Hospital said medical facilities in Rafah “cannot handle the large number of injuries due to the Israeli occupation’s bombardment.”
Footage showed a chaotic scene inside Rafah’s Al Kuwaiti hospital, with medics trying to resuscitate a motionless child in one scene and another showing doctors treating a wounded man on the hospital floor. In another video a woman was inconsolable as she held a child’s body wrapped in white cloth.
At least two mosques and around a dozen homes were targeted in the strikes, the Rafah municipality said Monday.
The Zionist military confirmed it conducted a “series of strikes” on what it said were targets in the Shaboura area of Rafah and that two Israeli captives were rescued in a “special operation”.
In a statement Monday, Hamas condemned what it said was a “horrific massacre” by Israel against civilians in Rafah.
The Zionist military’s attack on Rafah “and its horrific massacres against defenseless civilians and displaced children, women, and the elderly… is considered a continuation of the genocidal war and the forced displacement attempts it is waging against our Palestinian people,” Hamas said.
At least 28,340 Palestinians have been killed by the occupying regime of Israel since October 7, according to Gaza’s health ministry.
More than 67,984 Palestinians have also been wounded the ministry added.
In the last 24 hours, Zionist forces martyred at least 164 people and more than 200 have been wounded in Gaza, a ministry statement on Telegram said.
More than 1.3 million people — more than half of Gaza’s population — is seeking refuge in Rafah, with the majority of people displaced from other parts of the besieged enclave crammed into a sprawling tent city.
There are severe shortages of food, water, medicine and shelter, and the city has been described as a “pressure cooker of despair” by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) spokesperson, Jens Laerke.
Rafah has experienced aerial assaults from Zionist forces for months, but Monday’s bombardment has heightened fears that an anticipated Israeli ground invasion would result in a bloodbath, with those trapped in the overcrowded city having no remaining escape route.
Zionist prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday directed the military to plan for the “evacuation of the population” from Rafah after saying that troops would “soon go into Rafah.”
His comments set off a firestorm of criticism, with Human Rights Watch saying forced displacement of Palestinians in Rafah would have “catastrophic consequences.” The United Nations said it was “extremely worried about the fate of civilians in Rafah,” according to UN spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric, who said people “need to be protected.”
Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said in a statement that the Zionist regime’s declared ground invasion of Rafah would be catastrophic and must not proceed.
“As aerial bombardment of the area continues, more than a million people, many living in tents and makeshift shelters, now face a dramatic escalation in this ongoing massacre,” it said on X.
“Nowhere in Gaza is safe, and repeated forced displacements have pushed people to Rafah, where they are trapped in a tiny patch of land and have no options,” it added.
MSF has said that its facilities have come “under fire from tanks, artillery, fighter jets, snipers and ground troops, or being subject to an evacuation order”.
A Hamas leadership source said that an assault on Rafah would mean the “destruction” of negotiations that have been ongoing for weeks, according to Al-Aqsa TV.
And Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Egypt joined a growing list of countries to express concern over Israel’s planned invasion.
Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry warned of “very serious repercussions of storming and targeting” the city, while Qatar — a key mediator in talks between Israel and Hamas — on Sunday urged the UN’s Security Council to “prevent” the Zionist regime from committing what it described as “genocide” and warned of a “humanitarian catastrophe in the city.”
In a call with Netanyahu on Sunday, U.S. President Joe Biden “reaffirmed” his stance the Zionist troops should not proceed with the military operation in Rafah “without a credible and executable plan” to ensure the safety of civilians, according to a White House release.
Many Palestinians fleeing Israeli bombs and shelling have trekked through the enclave and taken refuge in the city as the Zionist campaign has moved south through Gaza.
It has rapidly become home to a huge population of displaced Palestinians. Satellite images showed last week how a tent city in Rafah has swelled in size in just a few weeks, as more Gazans descend on the area to escape the Zionist onslaught.
It is unclear where next they could go; the city borders Egypt to the south, but the border into the country has been closed for months.
For the more than one million Palestinians in the southern city, the expected push into Rafah is causing alarm and fear.
“We are praying to God that what happened in Gaza City does not happen in Rafah because if the same happens in Rafah we will have no place to go,” Muhammad Jamal Abu Tour, a Palestinian living in Rafah, said.
“If we go to Gaza City or Khan Younis or El Nuseirat we are not going to find the supplies that were provided for us here in Rafah,” he added. “We keep hearing that in Gaza City they can’t find clean water and that they are eating grass, they drink from the sea, God help them.”
Mahmoud Khalil Amer, who was displaced from the Al Shati refugee camp in northern Gaza, said he stayed in a tent near a cemetery in Rafah. “We are not living, the dead are better than us,” he said.
Rafah is the last major population center in Gaza not occupied by the Israeli military.
Other cities stormed by the occupying regime have been turned into wastelands – a grim preview of what could be in store for Rafah.
People in the Tal El Hawa neighborhood of Gaza City described scenes of “total destruction” following Israeli operations in northern Gaza, with some people saying they have had to drink from toilets due to a lack of water.
“We were besieged. We tried to go back to the north, but we were besieged here,” Abdul Kareem Al-Qaseer told a journalist working for CNN. “Every day there were martyrs. Every day there was shelling. Every day there was hunger.”
“We even had to drink water from the toilets. We had to drink from it and make our children drink from it. There was no food, no drink,” he added.
Olfat Hamdan said she had witnessed dead bodies on the streets of Gaza City, noting that “nobody was able to drag them or move them.”
“What have I seen? Total destruction – look at of the scale of the destruction,” she said in a video commissioned by CNN, as she pointed to damaged buildings and rubble around her.
In the southern city of Khan Younis, where the Zionist military urged large numbers of civilians to flee in the early days of the war, the devastation was described as being beyond imagination.
Since the Zionist regime focused its campaign on Khan Younis, many buildings have been completely destroyed and the rubble bulldozed away. The ones that are left standing appear damaged beyond any chance of repair. Some look like the ruins of medieval castles – lone walls with holes where windows used to be.
At the heart of crescendoing fears surrounding an Israeli ground invasion in Rafah is a large-scale human toll from a war that has already inflicted a catastrophic humanitarian crisis on the people of Gaza, including starvation, looming famine, a medical disaster, and the deaths of more than 28,300 Palestinians, according to information released by the Hamas-run Ministry of Health in Gaza.