Live updates | Israel conducts deadly Gaza strikes after Biden calls approach to war ‘over the top’


Israeli airstrikes struck the central Gaza Strip and the southern city of Rafah on the border with Egypt overnight into Friday, causing nearly two dozen fatalities including women and children, witnesses and hospital officials said.

The overnight airstrikes came hours after U.S. President Joe Biden said Thursday that he considers Israel’s conduct in the war to be “over the top.”

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken left Israel on Thursday as the divide grows between the two close allies on the way forward.

More than half of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million has been driven by Israel’s military offensive toward the border with Egypt. Unable to leave the tiny Palestinian territory, many are living in makeshift tent camps or overflowing U.N.-run shelters.

The Palestinian death toll from the war has surpassed 27,840 people, the Health Ministry in Gaza said. A quarter of Gaza’s residents are starving.

The war began with Hamas’ assault into Israel on Oct. 7, in which militants killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducted around 250. Hamas is still holding more than 130 hostages, but around 30 of them are believed to be dead.


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Here’s the latest:


RAFAH, Gaza Strip — The U.N. children’s agency called on all parties to refrain from military escalation in Rafah, at the southern edge of the Gaza Strip, warning that there are more than 600,000 children in the area, some of whom have been displaced more than once since the war began four months ago.

UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell said in a statement late Thursday that military escalation in Rafah would mark “another devastating turn in a war” that has killed over 27,000 people according to health officials in Gaza.

She said it could leave thousands more dead through violence or lack of essential services, and further disrupt humanitarian assistance.

“We need Gaza’s last remaining hospitals, shelters, markets and water systems to stay functional,” Russell said. “Without them, hunger and disease will skyrocket, taking more child lives.”

More than half of the Gaza Strip’s 2.3 million people have fled to Rafah, heeding Israeli evacuation orders ahead of the military’s expanding ground offensive. Evacuation orders now cover two-thirds of the besieged, tiny enclave.

Russell appealed to all parties to the conflict to adhere to their obligations under international humanitarian law, which includes taking the utmost care to spare civilians and civilian infrastructure.


RAFAH, Gaza Strip — At least 22 people, including children and women, were killed in four Israeli airstrikes overnight into Friday in the central area of the Gaza Strip and in the southern city of Rafah on the border with Egypt, witnesses and hospital officials said.

The strikes hit a residential building in Rafah, killing eight people, and a kindergarten-turned-shelter for the displaced in the central town of Zuwaida, killed five. The dead and wounded were taken to nearby hospitals, where bodies were seen by journalists from The Associated Press. A strike killed nine people in Deir al-Balah.

More than half of the Gaza Strip’s 2.3 million people have fled to Rafah, heeding Israeli evacuation orders ahead of the military’s expanding ground offensive. Evacuation orders now cover two-thirds of the tiny besieged enclave.

Even in areas of refuge, such as Rafah, Israel routinely launches air strikes against what it says are Hamas targets. It holds the militant group responsible for civilian casualties because it operates from civilian areas. President Joe Biden said Thursday that he considers Israel’s conduct of the war to be “over the top.”

Israeli ground forces are still focussing on the city of Khan Younis, just north of Rafah, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeatedly warned this week that Rafah would be next, creating panic among hundreds of thousands of displaced people.

Netanyahu’s words have also alarmed Egypt which has said that any ground operation in the Rafah area or mass displacement across the border would undermine its 40-year-old peace treaty with Israel. The mostly sealed Gaza-Egypt border is also the main entry point for humanitarian aid.

Israel’s 4-month-old air and ground offensive, ignited by a deadly Hamas attack on Oct. 7, has killed over 27,000 Palestinians, driven most people from their homes and pushed a quarter of the population toward starvation.


WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Thursday called Israel’s military response in Gaza “over the top” and said he continues to work “tirelessly” to press Israel and Hamas to agree on an extended pause in fighting.

“I am of the view, as you know, that the conduct of the response in the Gaza Strip has been over the top,” Biden told reporters in exchange on Thursday evening after delivering remarks on a special counsel report on his handling of classified documents.

Biden added that he continues to push for an extended pause in fighting in Gaza to facilitate the release of the dozens of remaining hostages that were captured during the Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

Hamas, however, has demanded that Israel release hundreds of Palestinian prisoners and end the war as part of a hostage deal. Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has refused to agree to those terms.

But Biden said he still is hopeful a deal can be worked out that might open a path to ending the war.

“I am pushing very hard now to deal with this hostage cease-fire,” Biden said. “I’ve been working tirelessly on this deal. How can I say this without revealing … to lead to a sustained pause in the fighting in, and the actions taking place, in the Gaza Strip.”

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