Strikes kill 13 in Gaza

RAFAH, Gaza Strip — Israeli airstrikes killed at least 13 people in Rafah in the Gaza Strip after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected Hamas' cease-fire terms and vowed to expand the offensive into the southern Gaza town.

President Joe Biden called Israel’s military response in Gaza “over the top” and said he continues to work “tirelessly” to press Israel and Hamas to agree on an extended pause in fighting.

More than half of the Gaza Strip's population has fled to Rafah, a city on the mostly sealed border with Egypt that is also the main entry point for humanitarian aid. Egypt has warned that any ground operation there or mass displacement across the border would undermine its 40-year-old peace treaty with Israel.

The strikes killed at least 13 people, including two women and five children, according to the Kuwaiti Hospital, which received the bodies. At the scene of one of the strikes, residents used their cellphone flashlights as they dug through the rubble with pick-axes and their bare hands.

Israel's four-month-old air and ground offensive — among the most destructive in recent history — has killed over 27,000 Palestinians, driven most people from their homes and pushed a quarter of the population toward starvation.

Netanyahu has said the offensive will continue and expand until “total victory” over Hamas, which started the war by launching a wide-ranging attack into southern Israel on Oct. 7 in which militants killed some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took around 250 hostage.

Biden has pushed for an extended pause in the fighting to facilitate the release of the remaining hostages after brief pauses earlier that had allowed for the release of mostly women and children. More than 100 are still captive and Israel has vowed to bring them back.

Hamas, however, has demanded that Israel release hundreds of Palestinian prisoners and end the war as part of a hostage deal. Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has refused to agree to those terms.

Biden said he still is hopeful that a deal can be worked out that might create a path to ending the war.

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