War in Gaza: IDF rains down on Rafah—and on Syria

Death toll crosses 28,000 as Israeli airstrikes kill dozens of Palestinians, hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for evacuation of Rafah

A man looks through precariously held up rubble for survivors in Rafah (photo: DW)
A man looks through precariously held up rubble for survivors in Rafah (photo: DW)


  • Israel intensifies airstrikes on Gaza's Rafah

  • Syria accuses Israel of striking Damascus

  • Death toll surpasses 28,000, according to the Health Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza

IDF says killed 2 Hamas operatives in Rafah

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said on Saturday, 10 February, it had killed two Hamas operatives and a policeman in Rafah.

Fighting has intensified in the Rafah border area of the Gaza Strip, despite international warnings due to the presence of hundreds of thousands of war-displaced civilians.

Israeli aircraft killed Ahmed Eliakubi, the IDF said in a social media post, describing him as a "Hamas operative who was responsible for the security arrangements for senior Hamas officials and served as a senior director in the Rafah District Police Department."

The Israeli military added that it also killed Iman Rantisi. The latter was described as a "military operative and a senior in the investigation department of Hamas' general security."

Israel designates Hamas, the group which rules the Gaza Strip, as a terrorist organisation, alongside several other countries, including the US and Germany.

Meanwhile, at least 44 Palestinians were killed in the southern city of Rafah, including over a dozen children, the Associated Press news agency reported on Saturday.

More than half of Gaza's population of more than 2 million has flooded into Rafah, which lies on the Egyptian border, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netayanhu directed Israel's military to plan for the "evacuation of the population and destroying" Hamas fighters in Rafah on Friday, 9 February, despite warnings against the move from many of Israel's allies.

Israeli offensive in Rafah a "catastrophe waiting to happen": Germany's Baerbock

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has warned that Israel's planned offensive in the Gazan border city of Rafah — home to over 1 million refugees — would unleash a "humanitarian catastrophe."

"The emergency in Rafah is already unbelievable. 1.3 million people are seeking refuge from the fighting in a very small space," she wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

"An offensive by the Israeli military in Rafah would be a humanitarian catastrophe waiting to happen. The people in Gaza cannot disappear into thin air," the foreign minister said.

She went on to say: "Israel has to defend itself against Hamas terror, but at the same time alleviating the suffering of the civilian population as much as possible."

"That's why a new cease-fire is necessary, also so that the hostages can finally be released. I will discuss how to achieve this again next week in Israel," she added.

Deadly strikes in Rafah as Netanyahu orders to plan evacuation

At least 25 people were killed as Israeli airstrikes pounded the city of Rafah on Gaza's southern border overnight and into Saturday, according to the Health Ministry in the Hamas-controlled territory.

The ministry's figures are deemed largely accurate by the UN but do not differentiate between militants and civilians.

More than half of Gaza's over 2-million-strong population has flooded into Rafah, which lies on the Egyptian border, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu directed the country's military to plan for the "evacuation of the population and destroying" Hamas fighters in Rafah on Friday, 9 February.

Israeli forces have already carried out operations in the strip's two main cities — Gaza City and Khan Younis.

The plan has been heavily criticized by humanitarians and some of Israel's closest allies.

"Israel's declared ground offensive on Rafah would be catastrophic and must not proceed," Doctors Without Borders said in a statement. "There is no place that is safe in Gaza and no way for people to leave."

"There is a sense of growing anxiety, growing panic in Rafah," said Philippe Lazzarini, the head of the UNRWA agency. "People have no idea where to go."

"No war can be allowed in a gigantic refugee camp," said Jan Egeland, Secretary-General of the Norwegian Refugee Council, warning of a "bloodbath" if Israeli operations expand there.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, the head of the Palestinian Authority, which administers part of the West Bank, called it a "blatant violation of all red lines."

Mahmoud Abbas warned it would amount to a "prelude to expulsion."

The US State Department also said it does not support a ground offensive in Rafah, warning that, if not properly planned, such an operation risked "disaster."

Three dead in strikes near Syrian capital

The Syrian military has said Israel struck several sites on the outskirts of the capital Damascus on Saturday.

The attacks came from the direction of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, Syrian state news agency SANA reported, citing an unnamed military official.

Britain-based war monitor the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported three people were killed when a residential building was struck to the west of the capital.

Israel has launched hundreds of strikes on its northern neighbour since 2011, targeting Iran-backed forces, including Hezbollah and Syrian army positions.

The strikes have intensified since Hamas' October 7 attacks on Israel.

Berlin's Free University bans student accused of attacking Jewish peer

Berlin's Free University (FU) has banned a student from campus who allegedly assaulted another student in an apparent antisemitic attack.

A Jewish student at FU was hospitalized last weekend due to facial fractures. A fellow German student allegedly confronted the 30-year-old about his pro-Israeli activism and then punched and kicked him. The incident was reported to have taken place in the central Mitte district of Berlin.

"In view of the offence, the suspect would be perceived as a threat on the university campus," FU President Günter Ziegler said in a statement on Friday, 9 February.

The university cannot legally expel the student.

"In order to protect the members of the university and to safeguard the peace of the university, the ban that has now been imposed for an initial period of three months is indispensable," Ziegler said, adding it could be extended.

The public prosecutor's office is investigating the case but told the German press agency DPA it is assuming the attack was targeted and antisemitic.

lo/ab (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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Published: 10 Feb 2024, 7:54 PM