Israeli forces have bombed three residential buildings in the Rafah border, killing at least 29 Palestinians, with fears mounting over additional casualties trapped beneath the rubble.

The border crossing with Egypt is the only point of exit for Palestinians looking to flee Gaza.

The bombing came after a series of significant developments on both the diplomatic and military fronts. The United States Secretary of Defence, Lloyd Austin, announced the formation of a coalition to patrol the Red Sea in response to Houthi attacks on commercial shipping. The move comes after an incident reported by the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) agency, where vessels faced threats from Yemen’s Houthi rebels 80 nautical miles off the coast of Djibouti.

At a virtual ministerial meeting, Secretary Austin introduced the US-led patrol mission, named “Operation Prosperity Guardian.” This coalition includes the United Kingdom, Bahrain, Canada, France, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Seychelles, and Spain, aiming to secure shipping lanes in the Red Sea. Joint patrols with private companies are set to be part of the mission.

“We’re all here because many countries can directly contribute to our common efforts to keep strategic waterways safe,” stated Austin during the meeting. He highlighted the need for a firm international response to the “reckless Houthi attacks,” referring to them as a serious international problem.

Simultaneously, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues to escalate, with reports of two more Israeli soldiers killed in Gaza. Israeli forces have conducted operations in various parts of the occupied West Bank, including Nahalin, Ramallah, Jenin, Hebron, and Tulkarem. Since 7 October, Israel has killed over 19,453 Palestinians, mostly women and children, while Hamas’s attack on Israel has resulted in nearly 1,140 casualties.

The United Nations Security Council is expected to vote on a new resolution, although the term “cessation of hostilities” has emerged as a sticking point in the negotiations. Apart from the ongoing Israeli offensive in Gaza, Israeli forces have arrested over 4,500 Palestinians in the occupied West Bank since 7 October.