Blinken says Israel has not told US a specific date for Rafah ground invasion

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said Israel has not told the US of any specific date for the start of a major offensive into the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

He added that American and Israeli officials remained in contact to try to ensure that “any kind of major military operation doesn’t do real harm to civilians”.

Mr Blinken spoke a day after Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu vowed that a date has been set to invade Rafah.

The city is filled with around 1.4 million Palestinians, most of whom are displaced from other parts of the Gaza Strip. The US, Israel’s closest ally, has said a ground operation into Rafah would be a mistake and has demanded to see a credible plan to protect civilians.

Israel’s offensive has pushed Gaza into a humanitarian crisis, leaving more than a million people on the brink of starvation.

International efforts to broker a ceasefire between Israel and the militant group Hamas are taking place in Cairo this week.

Egyptian officials said on Tuesday that mediators have presented a new ceasefire proposal to Hamas and Israel that would include a six-week pause in fighting and a swap of 40 Hamas-held hostages for at least 700 Palestinians imprisoned by Israel.

Israel says more than 130 hostages remain in Gaza, with about a quarter of those believed dead.

The Palestinian death toll from the war has passed 33,200, with nearly 76,000 wounded, Gaza’s Health Ministry said. The ministry does not differentiate between civilians and combatants in its tally, but says women and children make up two-thirds of the dead.

Later on Tuesday an Israeli airstrike hit a home in central Gaza, killing at least 11 people, including seven women and children, hospital officials said.

After the strike hit in the town of Zawaida, Associated Press footage showed one man carrying the limp body of a little girl and laying her with the bodies of other dead children on the floor at the main hospital in nearby Deir al-Balah.

Hospital officials said the dead included five children and two women.

The strike came as the Israeli military withdrew its forces from the southern city of Khan Younis this week, ending a monthslong ground assault that left large parts of the city in ruins.

Still, airstrikes have continued in the past days, including in Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah.

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