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Scores were reported killed in overnight strikes across the Gaza Strip on Sunday after Hamas said it needed more time to consider a proposal that would halt its war with Israel in the besieged Palestinian territory.
Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry said early Sunday that at least 92 people had been killed overnight, including in what the group’s media office said was an Israeli bombardment of a kindergarten in Rafah where displaced people were sheltering.
Concerns over a potential Israeli ground incursion into the southern border city have mounted in recent days, with hundreds of thousands of displaced seeking refuge from the fighting there in makeshift shelters and encampments.
Many made the journey from even harder-hit areas after being told the city was a safe zone, but strikes have continued there as well, with mourners gathering outside a local hospital Saturday to pray for the dead after another bombardment.
“The children were just sleeping and suddenly the bombardment happened. The bedroom fell on my children. God took one of my children and three escaped death,” Ahmad Bassam al-Jamal told AFP, his voice breaking. “My child now is a martyr in heaven.”
The city that had been home to 200,000 people now hosts more than half of Gaza’s population, the United Nations said.
A representative of the UN humanitarian agency OCHA has called Rafah “a pressure cooker of despair”, expressing concern for what might happen next.
Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant warned on Thursday that the military — which began its ground invasion in the territory’s north and has gradually advanced south — “will also reach Rafah”.
Civilians who fled to the city have been pushed up against the border with Egypt, trying to avoid areas exposed to bombardment and fighting in nearby Khan Yunis.
“We are exhausted,” said displaced Gazan Mahmud Abu al-Shaar, urging “a ceasefire so that we can return to our homes”.