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Airstrikes on Rafah kill scores as Israeli jets pummel Syria

Deadly Israeli strikes on Rafah

Israeli airstrikes killed at least 28 Palestinians in Rafah early on Saturday.

The attacks came hours after Israel’s prime minister said he had asked the military to plan for the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people from the southern Gaza city ahead of a ground invasion.

Benjamin Netanyahu did not provide details or a timeline, but the announcement set off widespread panic.

More than half of Gaza’s 2.3 million people are packed into Rafah, many after being uprooted repeatedly by Israeli evacuation orders that now cover two-thirds of Gaza’s territory. It’s not clear where they could run next.

Word of the invasion plans capped a week of increasingly public friction between Netanyahu and the Biden administration. US officials have said an invasion of Rafah without a plan for the civilian population would lead to disaster.

Israel has carried out airstrikes in Rafah almost daily, even after telling civilians in recent weeks to seek shelter there from ground combat in the city of Khan Younis, just to the north.

This satellite image provided by Planet Labs PBC shows the southern Gaza town of Rafah on Jan. 14, 2024.
This satellite image provided by Planet Labs PBC shows the southern Gaza town of Rafah on Jan. 14, 2024. - AP/AP

Israeli jets hit targets in Syria

Israeli airstrikes hit several sites on the outskirts of Syria's capital, Damascus, the Syrian military said Saturday.

The strikes came from the direction of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, Syrian state news agency SANA reported, citing an unnamed military official.

It added that air defences shot down some and those that landed resulted in “material losses.”

It was not immediately clear if there were casualties, and there was no comment from Israel.

The strikes come as tensions across the Middle East grow amid the Israel Hamas war.

A drone attack last month killed three US troops in northeastern Jordan near the Syrian border.

Syrian security forces and civil defence workers search for victims under the rubbles of a building that was destroyed by Israeli airstrikes, in Homs, Syria, late Tuesday.
Syrian security forces and civil defence workers search for victims under the rubbles of a building that was destroyed by Israeli airstrikes, in Homs, Syria, late Tuesday. - AP/AP