Israel has killed 44 Palestinians, including 12 children, in three separate airstrikes targeting residential homes in Rafah. Israeli forces opened fire at Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, where at least two people were killed, and others are reportedly trapped inside the facility.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s announcement directing the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) and the defence ministry to prepare plans for troops to enter Rafah and evacuate civilians has caused widespread panic. This move suggests a potential escalation in the conflict. Civilians in Rafah express desperation and logistical challenges in finding a safe alternative.

Hamas warned of catastrophic repercussions, suggesting tens of thousands of casualties if Israel proceeds with its plans in Rafah. The group holds the international community, especially the United States and Israel, responsible for any such outcome.

Criticism of Israel’s plans for Rafah has also emerged from its key ally, the United States. President Joe Biden called the military response in Gaza “over the top” and is pushing for a sustained pause in fighting, normalisation of Saudi-Israeli relations, increased humanitarian aid, and progress towards a two-state solution.

However, Netanyahu, who opposes Palestinian statehood, faces challenges within his governing coalition if he is perceived as making too many concessions. Despite Biden’s call for a ceasefire due to the humanitarian crisis and the suffering of innocent people, Netanyahu rejected Hamas’ ceasefire proposal, insisting on an absolute victory for Israel’s security.

Netanyahu dismissed Hamas’s conditions, stating they would lead to another massacre and a tragedy for Israel. He claimed that hostages would only be released through continued military pressure on Hamas.

EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell warned against the Israeli offensive on Rafah. Borrell emphasised that such actions could lead to an unspeakable humanitarian catastrophe and grave tensions with Egypt. Al Jazeera’s Tareq Abu Azzoum reported that no choices remain as 1.9 million Palestinians, currently sheltering in Rafah, receive evacuation orders.

The death toll in Gaza has reached 28,064, with 67,611 wounded. At least 44 Palestinians were killed in Rafah in Israeli airstrikes.

US Senator Bernie Sanders criticised Congress for considering $14 billion in military aid to Israel amid preparations for an assault on Rafah. Sanders questioned the ethical and humanitarian implications of providing additional military assistance to Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.

Former US President and presidential candidate Donald Trump also expressed scepticism about a proposed funding package that includes $14.1 billion in military funding for Israel. Trump suggested offering the funds as a loan rather than a grant, proposing a different approach to international financial assistance.

The proposed bill, encompassing $118 billion in funding for various purposes, including Israel, Ukraine, and domestic border controls, is currently pending a vote in the US Congress.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry warned that an Israeli ground offensive on Rafah could have disastrous consequences. He accused Israel of aiming to force Palestinians from their land. An Egyptian official stated that Palestinians fleeing Gaza won’t be allowed to cross into the Sinai Peninsula.

Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister Amir-Abdollahian warned Israel against a full-scale war with Hezbollah, stating it would be Netanyahu’s last day. Hezbollah and Israel have been engaging in near-daily exchanges of fire across the Israeli-Lebanese border since 7 October.

In a separate incident, a senior Hamas official survived an alleged Israeli assassination attempt in Beirut, resulting in two civilian deaths. Israel has not commented on the allegation.