Israeli airstrikes targeted areas in Gaza on Saturday, including Rafah, where Israel broadened their evacuation directive. The UN cautioned about a potential “epic” catastrophe if a full-scale invasion of the densely populated city proceeds.

Israeli strikes on Saturday hit parts of Gaza, including Rafah, where Israel expanded an evacuation order, and the UN warned of an “epic” disaster if an outright invasion of the crowded city goes ahead.

AFP journalists, medics, and witnesses reported strikes across the coastal territory, where the UN says humanitarian relief is blocked after Israeli troops defied international opposition and entered eastern Rafah this week. This effectively shuts down a key aid crossing and suspends traffic through another.

At least 21 people were killed during strikes in central Gaza and taken to Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir al-Balah city, a hospital statement said.

Bodies covered in white lay on the ground in a courtyard of the facility. A man in a baseball cap leaned over one body bag, clasping a dust-covered hand that protruded.

The feet of another corpse poked from under a blanket bearing the picture of a large teddy bear.

In Rafah, witnesses reported intense air strikes near the crossing with Egypt, and AFP images showed smoke rising over the city.

Hamas on Saturday accused Israel of “expanding the incursion into Rafah to include new areas in the center and the west of the city.”

Israeli troops on Tuesday seized and closed the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing — through which all fuel passes into Gaza — after ordering residents of eastern Rafah to evacuate.

The Army said on Saturday that troops were engaged in “operational activity” at the crossing, where they fought against “armed terrorists” and found “numerous underground tunnel shafts.”

While mediation efforts towards a truce and hostage release appeared to stall, Hamas’s armed wing released a video of a captive seen alive in Gaza — the third such footage released in less than a month.


The new evacuation order for eastern Rafah, posted on X by military spokesman Avichay Adraee, said the designated areas had “witnessed Hamas terrorist activities in recent days and weeks.”

A US State Department report on Friday said it was “reasonable to assess” that Israel violated norms of international law in its use of weapons from the United States, but it did not find enough evidence to block shipments.

Hamas, in a statement, said that Israel’s “continued control” and closure of the Rafah crossing exacerbate the “humanitarian catastrophe” in the besieged territory.

But on Saturday, Adraee said Hamas “is trying to rebuild” there and ordered evacuations from the north’s Jabalia refugee camp and Beit Lahia areas.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Friday that Gaza risked an “epic humanitarian disaster” if Israel launched a full-scale ground operation in Rafah.

The Israeli Army said it reopened the Kerem Shalom crossing near Rafah on Wednesday, but aid agencies cautioned that getting assistance through the militarized area remained extremely difficult.

The Army said on Saturday that rockets had been fired at the Kerem Shalom crossing but reported no injuries.

Israel has said its Erez crossing into northern Gaza remains open.

Fleeing Again

On Friday, the White House said it did not yet see a “major ground operation” in Rafah but was watching the situation “with concern.”

Biden’s administration had already paused the delivery of 3,500 bombs as Israel appeared ready to attack Rafah.

Israel said on Saturday that 300,000 people had fled Rafah since the initial evacuation order, as more residents piled water tanks, mattresses, and other belongings onto vehicles and prepared to flee again.

Israel said it had delivered 200,000 liters of fuel to Gaza on Friday through Kerem Shalom — the amount the United Nations says is needed every day to keep aid trucks moving and hospital generators working.

The evacuation order on Saturday told residents to go to the “humanitarian zone” of Al-Mawasi, on the coast northwest of Rafah.

That area has “extremely limited access to clean drinking water, latrines,” and other basic services, said Sylvain Groulx, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) emergency coordinator in Gaza.

More than 1,170 Israelis have died, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

Israel estimates 128 hostages remain in Gaza, including 36 whom the military says are dead.

At least 34,971 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, were killed by Israel’s assault, according to the territory’s health ministry.

With AFP