Israel’s war on Gaza has reached a critical point as Israeli air and sea attacks killed at least 67 Palestinians in Rafah overnight, according to the Ministry of Health in Gaza.

Concerns rise about the potential impact of Israel’s planned ground offensive on Rafah. A senior Hamas leader, quoted by the Al-Aqsa television channel, warned that such an offensive could jeopardise captive exchange negotiations. The exchange negotiations involve the release of captives held by both sides.

US President Joe Biden reportedly communicated with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, highlighting the need for a safety plan to protect over one million people seeking shelter in Rafah in case of a military ground assault.

Since 7 October, Israel has killed at least 28,340 Palestinians, mostly women and children, and injured 67,984 others in Gaza. Two captives, 70-year-old Louis Norberto Har and 60-year-old Fernando Simon Marman, were rescued by the Israeli military overnight. They were taken during the 7 October attacks on the Nir Yitzhak kibbutz. Hamas initially seized around 240 captives on 7 October, and although dozens were released during a one-week truce in November, approximately 134 captives remain in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas has outlined a three-phase plan for a deal, aiming for the release of all captives in exchange for hundreds of Palestinians held captive by Israel. However, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu seems to have rejected this plan, pledging to continue the military assault on Gaza until absolute victory.

Hamas reported that two captives were killed and eight others seriously wounded in recent Israeli bombardments. Israel is accused of continuing a genocidal war against the Palestinian people.

The Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) spokesperson Nebal Farsakh pointed out that Gaza is running out of safe places for Palestinians, as Rafah currently accommodates almost half of Gaza’s population due to people fleeing following Israeli evacuation orders. Families have evacuated multiple times, up to 10 instances, since the beginning of the war, facing challenges due to the absence of safe locations and the destruction of infrastructure. The lack of transportation further blocks evacuation efforts, leaving Palestinians in Gaza with nowhere safe.