Israeli missiles and air strikes on the Rafah area in southern Gaza struck three houses killing at least 20 Palestinians, Gaza health officials said on Tuesday.
Tens of thousands of displaced Palestinians have crammed into Rafah on Gaza’s border with Egypt to escape Israeli bombardments further north, despite fears that they will also not be safe there.
Early on Tuesday residents in Khan Younis, a city also in southern Gaza, reported fierce gun battles between militant Hamas fighters and Israeli forces. Israeli tanks and planes bombed areas near the city center, residents said.
A World Health Organization official said on Monday that the Kamal Adwan hospital in northern Gaza that Israeli troops raided last week is no longer functioning and patients including babies have been evacuated,
“We cannot afford to lose any hospitals,” said Richard Peeperkorn, WHO representative for Gaza.
Peeperkorn also said about 4,000 displaced people taking refuge in the grounds of the Nasser medical complex in Khan Younis were at risk as Israel pursues military operations there.
The Gaza health ministry said on Monday that 19,453 Palestinians had been killed and 52,286 wounded in the Israeli assault on the Hamas-ruled enclave in more than two months of warfare.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to achieve total victory over Hamas, whose fighters killed 1,200 people and took 240 hostages in a surprise Oct. 7 raid into Israel, according to Israeli tallies.
Israel’s intensifying retaliation against Hamas has increased concern among governments and international organizations over the civilian death toll, hunger and homelessness.
Father-of-four Raed, 45, who has moved his family twice, said Gazans were exhausted trying to stay alive.
“Money has lost its value, most of the items are not available. We rose from our beds after surviving a night of bombardment to tour the streets searching for food, we got tired,” he said in the Rafah area. “We want peace, truce, ceasefire, whatever they call it, but please stop the war.”
US leads Red Sea patrol
The United States said several countries have agreed to jointly carry out patrols in the southern Red Sea and Gulf of Aden to try to safeguard commercial shipping against attacks by Yemen’s Houthi militias.
Hamas and the Houthis are both aligned with Iran.
The Houthis have stepped up attacks on vessels in the Red Sea to show their support for Hamas.
The attacks, targeting a route that allows East-West trade, especially of oil, to use the Suez Canal to save the time and expense of circumnavigating Africa, have pushed some shipping companies to re-route vessels.
The Red Sea is linked to the Mediterranean by the Suez Canal, the world’s main East-West trade route, carrying about 12% of world shipping traffic.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, on a visit to Bahrain, identified several countries taking part in an international force. It was unclear whether those countries are willing to do what US warships have done in recent days – shoot down Houthi missiles and drones and rush to the aid of commercial ships under attack.
“This is an international challenge that demands collective action. Therefore today I am announcing the establishment of Operation Prosperity Guardian, an important new multinational security initiative,” Austin said in a statement on Tuesday.
It identified participating nations led by the United States as including among others Bahrain, Britain, Canada, France, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Seychelles and Spain.
The Houthis have waded into the Israel-Hamas conflict by attacking vessels in vital shipping lanes and even firing drones and missiles at Israel, more than 1,000 miles from their seat of power in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa.
The Houthis have threatened to target all ships heading to Israel, regardless of their nationality, and warned international shipping companies against dealing with Israeli ports.