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Airstrikes herald Rafah offensive; Saudis seek 'urgent' Security Council meeting

Palestinians inspect a house destroyed in an Israeli bombardment on Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on Thursday. Some 110 people, including 25 in Rafah, were killed in Israeli airstrikes overnight Saturday, Palestinian health officials said. Photo by Ismael Mohamad/UPI
Palestinians inspect a house destroyed in an Israeli bombardment on Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on Thursday. Some 110 people, including 25 in Rafah, were killed in Israeli airstrikes overnight Saturday, Palestinian health officials said. Photo by Ismael Mohamad/UPI

Feb. 10 (UPI) -- Israeli hit Hamas targets in southern Gaza overnight Saturday ahead of an expected offensive in Rafah as Saudi Arabia called for an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting to prevent a feared humanitarian crisis.

Israel Defense Forces launched overnight airstrikes against Hamas battalions throughout the Gaza Strip that the Gaza Health Ministry said killed 110 people, including 25 in Rafah.

The IDF said Saturday it is engaging in "intensive fighting" against Hamas operatives in southern Gaza's Khan Younis, as well as in other areas of the Palestinian enclave, including its central and northern areas.

Simultaneously, the IDF says the Israeli Air Force carried out strikes on various Hamas targets across the Strip during the overnight hours.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told media this week the IDF will target Hamas' remaining forces based in Rafah and the southern Strip next after previously destroying 17 of its 24 battalions in central and northern Gaza.

A picture taken from Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip shows smoke rising over buildings in Khan Younis following Israeli bombardment Gaza Strip on Thursday. Some 110 people, including 25 in Rafah, were killed in Israeli airstrikes overnight Saturday, Palestinian health officials said. Photo by Ismael Mohamad/UPI.
A picture taken from Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip shows smoke rising over buildings in Khan Younis following Israeli bombardment Gaza Strip on Thursday. Some 110 people, including 25 in Rafah, were killed in Israeli airstrikes overnight Saturday, Palestinian health officials said. Photo by Ismael Mohamad/UPI.

An attack on Rafah would cause a humanitarian crisis, Saudi Arabian officials said Saturday while calling on the Security Council to urgently convene to prevent what they fear will be a dire outcome for Palestinian refugees.

"The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has warned of the extremely dangerous repercussions of storming and targeting the city of Rafah in the Gaza Strip, which is the last refuge for hundreds of thousands of civilians forced to flee by the brutal Israeli aggression," they said in a statement.

People gather to inspect the remains of a wrecked police vehicle that was destroyed by Israeli airstrikes in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on Tuesday. Some 110 people, including 25 in Rafah, were killed in Israeli airstrikes overnight Saturday, Palestinian health officials said. Photo by Ismael Mohamad/UPI
People gather to inspect the remains of a wrecked police vehicle that was destroyed by Israeli airstrikes in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on Tuesday. Some 110 people, including 25 in Rafah, were killed in Israeli airstrikes overnight Saturday, Palestinian health officials said. Photo by Ismael Mohamad/UPI

Palestinian presidency spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh warned that an Israeli attack on Rafah by Israel would make the United States partly accountable for supporting Israel and not doing more to compel a cease-fire in Gaza, Egypt Today reported.

Israel is preparing to launch its military operation against Rafah and says it intends to evacuate local residents prior to its start.

Rafah contains more than 1.4 million Palestinians, most of whom are refugees from the military action elsewhere, according to the Gaza Government Media Office.

Israel declared war following the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel that killed about 1,200 and kidnapped an estimated 253 civilians from Israel and other nations. The Gaza Health Ministry said Saturday the war in Gaza has claimed nearly 28,000 lives, including Hamas militants.

As the war progresses, most refugees have sought shelter in Rafah and nearby communities in southern Gaza.

Palestinian officials say a military attack there could cost the lives of many more civilians and amplify a humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.