RAFAH, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israeli forces raided one of the last functioning hospitals in Gaza’s north and bombarded the south with airstrikes that killed at least 28 Palestinians, pressing ahead with their offensive Tuesday with renewed backing from the United States, despite rising international alarm.

The air and ground war, launched in response to Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack into Israel, has killed nearly 20,000 Palestinians, displaced some 1.9 million, demolished much of northern Gaza and sparked attacks on U.S. and Israeli targets across the region.

Assaults on ships in the Red Sea by Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels have led major shipping companies — as well as the oil and gas giant BP — to suspend trade through the vital waterway, prompting the U.S. and its allies to launch a new mission to counter the threat.

But after meeting with Israeli officials Monday, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said he was “not here to dictate timelines or terms.”

His remarks signaled that the U.S. would continue shielding Israel from growing international calls for a cease-fire as the United Nations Security Council was set to hold another vote Tuesday, and would keep providing vital military aid for one of the 21st century’s deadliest military campaigns.

STRIKES IN THE SOUTH
A strike on a home in Rafah where displaced people were sheltering killed at least 25 people, including a 2-year-old boy and his newborn sister, and another strike killed at least three people, according to Associated Press journalists who saw the bodies arrive at two local hospitals early Tuesday.

Rafah, which is in the southern part of Gaza where Israel has told Palestinians to seek shelter, has been repeatedly bombarded in recent days, as Israel has struck what it says are militant targets across the territory, often killing large numbers of civilians.

The military said Tuesday that it had killed a prominent Hamas financier in an airstrike on Rafah, without specifying when it occurred or if others were killed or wounded.

Meanwhile, fierce battles also raged in northern Gaza, where Hamas continues to put up stiff resistance across what is now a wasteland, seven weeks after Israeli tanks and troops stormed into Gaza.

On Tuesday, Hamas said it fired a barrage of rockets toward Tel Aviv, and air raid sirens went off in central Israel. There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage.

The war began after Hamas and other militants killed some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, in Israel and abducted 240 others.

More than 19,400 Palestinians have been killed since then, according to the Health Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza, which has said that most are women and minors and that thousands more are buried under rubble. The ministry does not differentiate between civilian and combatant deaths.

Israel’s military says 131 of its soldiers have been killed in the Gaza ground offensive. It says it has killed thousands of militants, without providing evidence. Israel blames civilian deaths on Hamas, saying it uses them as human shields, but the military rarely comments on individual strikes.

HOSPITAL RAID
Israeli forces raided the Al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza City overnight, according to the church that operates it, destroying a wall at its front entrance and detaining most of its staff.

The facility was the scene of an explosion early in the war that killed dozens of Palestinians, and which an Associated Press investigation later determined was likely caused by a misfired Palestinian rocket.

Don Binder, a pastor at St. George’s Anglican Cathedral, which runs the hospital, said the raid left just two doctors, four nurses and two janitors to tend to over 100 seriously wounded patients, with no running water or electricity.

“It has been a great mercy for the many wounded in Gaza City that we were able to keep our Ahli Anglican Hospital open for so long,” Binder wrote in a Facebook post late Monday. “That ended today.”

He said an Israeli tank was parked on the rubble at the hospital’s entrance, blocking anyone from entering or leaving.

There was no immediate comment from the Israeli military. Forces have raided other hospitals across Gaza, accusing Hamas of using them for military purposes. Hospital staff have denied the allegations and accused Israel of endangering critically ill and wounded civilians.

The military said Tuesday that troops found an explosive device inside a clinic in Shijaiyah, a Gaza City neighborhood that has seen heavy fighting in recent days. It did not say whether the clinic was operational, and in footage released by the military it appeared to have been abandoned.

SECURITY COUNCIL TO VOTE ON NEW TRUCE PROPOSAL
The U.N. Security Council delayed to Tuesday a vote on an Arab-sponsored resolution calling for a halt to hostilities to allow unhindered access to humanitarian aid. Diplomats said negotiations were taking place to get the U.S. to abstain or vote “yes” on the resolution after it vetoed an earlier call for a cease-fire.

France, the United Kingdom and Germany — some of Israel’s closest allies — joined global calls for a cease-fire over the weekend. In Israel, protesters have called for negotiations with Hamas to facilitate the release of scores of hostages still held by the group.

DIPLOMACY RAMPS UP
CIA Director William Burns met in Warsaw with the head of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency and the prime minister of Qatar on Monday, the first known meeting of the three since the cease-fire and the release of some 100 hostages in a deal they helped broker.

But U.S. National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said the talks were not “at a point where another deal is imminent.”

Hamas and other militants are still holding an estimated 129 captives.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted that Israel will keep fighting until it ends Hamas rule in Gaza, crushes its military capabilities and frees all the hostages taken during the Oct. 7 attack. For now, at least, he seems to have full U.S. support for a campaign that could last months or years.

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