Israel continued its offensive in Gaza on Friday, despite increasing international calls for restraint. The United States emphasized that the effort to crush Hamas should not result in a long-term Israeli occupation of the territory.

Israel pressed its offensive in Gaza on Friday despite mounting international calls for restraint, with key backer the United States saying the war to crush Hamas must not lead to a long-term Israeli occupation of the territory.

Late Thursday in the southern city of Rafah near the Egyptian border, crowds of Palestinians used flashlights to search under the rubble of buildings for survivors following an Israeli strike.

“This is a residential neighborhood, women and children live here, as you can see,” said resident Abu Omar. “Three missiles on a residential neighborhood that has nothing to do with any militant activities.”

Israeli military spokesman Daniel Hagari said troops were engaged in fighting with militants in two districts of Gaza City late Thursday.

The health ministry in Gaza says the war has killed more than 18,700 people, mostly women and children.

A man carries a child injured during Israeli bombardment in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip on December 14, 2023. (Photo by Said Khatib / AFP)

The Israeli army said Friday that 117 troops had died in Gaza since the start of the ground offensive.

The United States, which provides billions of dollars in military aid to Israel, has strongly backed its response to Hamas’s attacks but has voiced increasing concern over civilian casualties and the long-term plan for Gaza.

“We do not believe that it makes sense for Israel, or is right for Israel, to … reoccupy Gaza over the long term,” US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said Friday after meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant in Tel Aviv.

In Washington, US President Joe Biden urged Israel to take more care to protect civilians in Gaza.

But Netanyahu vowed to carry on “until victory,” and Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said the war would continue “with or without international support.”

Katrine Dige Houmøller, with AFP