At least 52 people were killed in heavy air strikes on densely crowded Rafah in southern Gaza before dawn on Monday, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.
AFP journalists and witnesses heard an intense series of strikes and saw smoke billowing above the city, which now hosts more than half of Gaza’s total population after they fled bombardment elsewhere on the Strip.
The strikes hit 14 houses and three mosques in different parts of Rafah, according to the Hamas government.
The Israeli military said in a statement on Monday that it had “conducted a series of strikes on terror targets in the area of Shaboura in the southern Gaza Strip,” adding that the strikes had concluded.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered his army to prepare a ground offensive on Rafah, Gaza’s last major population center that troops have yet to enter after Hamas’s October 7 attacks sparked the war.
About 1.4 million Palestinians have crowded into Rafah, with many living in tents while food, water, and medicine are becoming increasingly scarce.