A child finds his way through the rubble of a building hit by Israeli bombardment in Rafah [Mahmud Hams/AFP]

Israeli military kills 28 after Netanyahu signals Rafah invasion plan

The Israeli military has killed at least 28 Palestinians in strikes on Rafah immediately after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signalled that an invasion of the city in southern Gaza may be close.

Three air raids on residential homes in the Rafah area killed at least 28 people overnight into Saturday, according to a health official and The Associated Press journalists who saw the bodies arriving at hospitals.

As with many previous Israeli air raids, each attack reportedly killed multiple members of three families, including a total of 10 children, the youngest of whom was only three months old.

This came hours after Netanyahu said he had ordered the military to plan for the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of forcibly displaced Palestinians from Rafah in preparation for a ground invasion to accompany the air attacks.

Netanyahu did not provide details or a timeline, but his announcement only exacerbated widespread panic among over half of the Gaza Strip’s 2.3 million population who are now packed into Rafah. Many of them had been displaced several times before as a result of Israel’s war on Gaza.

The Israeli leader has said clearing Rafah of the purported four Hamas battalions who are in the area would be necessary on his path to “total victory” over the group.

Reporting from occupied East Jerusalem, Al Jazeera’s Rory Challands said, “At the same time, he said any massive army operation in Rafah can’t take place without the evacuation of civilians from the combat zone. He’s told the military and security establishment to come up with plans that do both.”

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