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Israeli strikes in Rafah kill 18, mostly children, Palestinian officials say

Israel strikes Rafah, operates in West Bank
Israel strikes Rafah, conducts operation in West Bank 02:35

Israeli strikes on the southern Gaza city of Rafah overnight killed 18 people, including 14 children, health officials said Sunday. Meanwhile, the United States was on track to approve billions of dollars of additional military aid to its close ally.

Israel has carried out near-daily air raids on Rafah, where more than half of Gaza's population of 2.3 million has sought refuge from fighting elsewhere. It has also vowed to expand its ground offensive to the city on the border with Egypt despite international calls for restraint, including from the U.S.

The House of Representatives approved a $26 billion aid package on Saturday that includes around $9 billion in humanitarian assistance for Gaza. Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told "Face the Nation" on Sunday that he believed the Senate would take up the legislation this week. It still needs senators' approval and President Biden's signature.  

"We have to be ready to be prepared for our national security interests, not only in Ukraine and Russia, also in terms of military assistance to Israel, but with additional humanitarian aid for the Palestinians who are in such great challenges," Warner said Sunday. 

The first strike killed a man, his wife and their 3-year-old child, according to the nearby Kuwaiti Hospital, which received the bodies. Among the dead was a pregnant woman in her 27th week, according to CBS News' team on the ground. Doctors were able to keep her baby alive as of Sunday morning.  

Smoke rises following Israeli strikes in Rafah
Smoke rises following Israeli strikes, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip April 21, 2024. Mohammed Salem / REUTERS

The second strike killed 13 children and two women, all from the same family, according to hospital records. An airstrike in Rafah the night before killed nine people, including six children.

For over two months, Israel has warned it could send troops into Rafah. The Group of 7, or G7, countries that include the U.S., Japan and the United Kingdom and whose foreign ministers met last week, warned that a full-scale operation there would have catastrophic consequences.

The Israel-Hamas war has killed over 34,000 Palestinians, according to local health officials, devastated Gaza's two largest cities and left a swath of destruction across the territory. Around 80% of the population have fled their homes to other parts of the besieged coastal enclave, which experts say is on the brink of famine.

The Israel-Hamas conflict, now in its seventh month, has sparked regional unrest pitting Israel and the U.S. against Iran and allied militant groups across the Middle East. Israel and Iran traded fire directly earlier this month, raising fears of all-out war between the longtime foes.

Tensions have also spiked in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Israeli troops killed two Palestinians who the military says attacked a checkpoint with a knife and a gun near the southern West Bank town of Hebron early Sunday. The Palestinian Health Ministry said the two killed were 18 and 19 years old, from the same family. No Israeli forces were wounded, the army said.

In the West Bank city of Tulkarm, at least 14 Palestinians were killed as part of a two-day Israel Defense Force operation over the weekend. The IDF pulled out of the area on Saturday night, on a scale residents say they have never seen in this area before.  

The U.S. has imposed new sanctions on West Bank settlers as the region has seen violence allegedly perpetrated by extremist settlers against Palestinians since the war in nearby Gaza began. A U.S. official told CBS News that since 2022, it has been investigating an IDF unit of ultra Orthodox soldiers accused of human rights atrocities. An announcement is expected this week.

That unit is stationed in the West Bank.  Media reports suggesting it could be blacklisted from receiving U.S. military aid prompted an angry outburst from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said sanctions against any IDF unit would be a moral low at a time when his country was fighting Hamas in Gaza.

The Palestinian Red Crescent rescue service meanwhile said it has recovered a total of 14 bodies from an Israeli raid in the Nur Shams urban refugee camp in the West Bank that began late Thursday. Those killed include three militants from the Islamic Jihad group and a 15-year-old boy. The military says it killed 10 militants in the camp and arrested eight suspects. Nine Israeli soldiers and officers were wounded.

In a separate incident in the West Bank, an Israeli man was wounded in an explosion Sunday, the Magen David Adom rescue service said. A video circulating online shows a man approaching a Palestinian flag that had been planted in a field. When he kicks it, it appears to trigger an explosive device.

At least 469 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli soldiers and settlers in the West Bank since the start of the war in Gaza, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. Most have been killed during Israeli military arrest raids, which often trigger gunbattles, or in violent protests.

The war in Gaza was sparked by an unprecedented Oct. 7 raid into southern Israel in which Hamas and other militants killed around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducted around 250 hostages. Israel says militants are still holding around 100 hostages and the remains of more than 30 others.

Thousands of Israelis have taken to the streets to call for new elections to replace Netanyahu and a deal with Hamas to release the hostages. Netanyahu has vowed to continue the war until Hamas is destroyed and all the hostages are returned.

The war has killed at least 34,000 Palestinians and wounded more than 76,000 others, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. The ministry does not differentiate between combatants and civilians in its count but says at least two-thirds have been children and women. [Update: In early May, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, or OCHA, revised its estimate, saying about 52% were women and children, not two-thirds.] Gaza health officials also say the real toll is likely higher as many bodies are stuck beneath the rubble left by airstrikes or are in areas that are unreachable for medics. 

Israel blames Hamas for civilian casualties because the militants fight in dense, residential neighborhoods, but the military rarely comments on individual strikes, which often kill women and children. The military says it has killed over 13,000 Hamas fighters, without providing evidence.

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