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Israeli airstrike kills dozens in Rafah area for displaced people, Gaza health officials say

Palestinian health and civil emergency service officials said at least 35 people were killed in an Israeli airstrike Sunday on the southern Gaza city of Rafah. The Israel Defence Forces said it struck a Hamas compound in Rafah and that it was carried out with "precise ammunition and on the basis of precise intelligence."

Israeli military says targeted strike killed 2 Hamas leaders

People gather around as a fire engulf debris and destroyed buildings.

Palestinian health and civil emergency service officials said at least 35 people were killed in an Israeli airstrike Sunday on the southern Gaza city of Rafah that hit tents for displaced people — an incident that the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) says is under review.

The IDF said its air force struck a Hamas compound in Rafah and that the strike was carried out with "precise ammunition and on the basis of precise intelligence." The strike took out the Hamas chief of staff for the West Bank and another senior Hamas official behind deadly attacks on Israelis, the military said in a statement.

"The IDF is aware of reports indicating that as a result of the strike and fire that was ignited several civilians in the area were harmed. The incident is under review," the statement read.

The spokesperson for the health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza, Ashraf Al-Qidra, said 35 people were killed and dozens others, most of them women and children, were wounded in the attack.

The strike took place in Tal al-Sultan neighbourhood in western Rafah, where thousands of people were taking shelter after many fled the eastern areas of the city where Israeli forces began a ground offensive over two weeks ago.

A wounded child is treated by medics and adults at a hospital.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said its field hospital in Rafah was receiving an influx of casualties, and that other hospitals also were taking in a large number of patients.

Senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri described the attack in Rafah as a "massacre," holding the United States responsible for aiding Israel with weapons and money.

"The air strikes burned the tents, the tents are melting and the people's bodies are also melting," said one of the residents who arrived at the Kuwaiti hospital in Rafah.

Hamas launches rockets at Tel Aviv

Earlier on Sunday, Hamas's armed wing said it launched a "big missile" attack on Tel Aviv as the Israeli military sounded sirens in the central city. Rocket sirens had not been heard in Tel Aviv for the past four months.

The Israeli military said eight projectiles were identified crossing from the area of Rafah, the southern tip of the Gaza Strip where Israel kept up operations despite a ruling by the top UN court on Friday ordering it to stop attacking the city.

A number of the projectiles were intercepted, it said. Israeli emergency medical services said they had received no reports of casualties.

The attack signalled that the militant group was still able to fire long-range rockets despite more than seven months of a devastating Israeli military offensive from the air and the ground. Rafah is located about 100 kilometres south of Tel Aviv.

A person points their mobile phone to inspect damage to a ceiling of a room.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was convening his war cabinet later on Sunday to discuss continued operations in Rafah. Israel argues that the UN court's ruling allows room for some military action there.

In a statement on its Telegram channel, the Hamas al-Qassam Brigades said the rockets were launched in response to "Zionist massacres against civilians."

Israel says it wants to root out Hamas fighters holed up in Rafah and rescue hostages it says are being held in the area, but its assault has worsened the plight of civilians and caused an international outcry.

On Sunday, Israeli strikes killed at least five Palestinians in Rafah, according to local medical services. The Gaza health ministry identified the dead as civilians.

WATCH | UN's top court orders Israel to 'immediately halt' military offensive in Rafah:

UN's top court orders Israel to 'immediately halt' military offensive in Rafah

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Israeli tanks have probed around the edges of Rafah, near the crossing point from Gaza into Egypt, and have entered some of its eastern districts, residents say, but have not yet entered the city in force since the start of operations in the city earlier this month.

Israeli war cabinet minister Benny Gantz said the rockets fired from Rafah "prove that the [Israel Defense Forces] must operate in every place Hamas still operates from."

Defence Minister Yoav Gallant held an operational assessment in Rafah where he was briefed on "troops' operations above and below the ground, as well as the deepening of operations in additional areas with the aim of dismantling Hamas battalions," his office said in a statement.

Itamar Ben Gvir, a hardline public security minister who is not part of Israel's war cabinet, urged the army to hit Rafah harder. "Rafah with full force," he posted on X.

Nearly 36,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel's offensive, Gaza's health ministry says.

Israel launched the operation after Hamas-led militants attacked southern Israeli communities on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and taking more than 250 people hostage, according to Israeli tallies.

With files from The Associated Press

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