BBC 2024-02-12 12:01:34

Israeli strikes kill dozens in Rafah as raid rescues two hostages

Palestinians in Rafah said a mosque and several houses were hit by Israeli strikes, causing widespread panic among people who had been asleep overnight.

Here’s some footage from the city this morning, taken in the aftermath of Israel’s deadly attacks:

Israel rescues two hostages in Rafah amid deadly strikes

Israel said two Israeli-Argentinian hostages have been rescued in a raid in Rafah, amid heavy Israeli air strikes on the southern Gazan city.

The Israeli military said the two men were in “good medical condition”.

The pair were named as Fernando Simon Marman, aged 60, and Louis Har, 70, from Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak.

Some 1.5 million people are sheltering in Rafah. The Hamas-run health ministry said dozens had been killed in the overnight strikes.

It follows warnings from the international community over Israel’s planned offensive in the city.

The hostages were found on the second floor of a building in Rafah, said Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, a spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

He said Israeli forces had engaged in “heavy exchanges of fire at several locations simultaneously, with many terrorists”.

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Abou Suhhaib, who lives in the Shaboura neighbourhood in Rafah, heard “heavy shooting” and “strong explosions” overnight.

“At approximately midnight, we heard the sounds of strong explosions, as if hell had opened on the civilians,” he told AFP news agency.

He described seeing a helicopter landing, adding, “there was heavy shooting, as if it was a very big battle”.

There are conflicting reports on Palestinian casualties from the air strikes: the AFP news agency reported that “around 100 people” were killed, citing Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry. Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported that at least 50 people were killed, quoting local hospital officials.

In a statement on social media, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said that during an overnight “joint operation between the IDF, ISA [Israel Security Agency or Shin Bet], and Israel Police, two Israeli hostages from Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak were rescued: Fernando Simon Marman (60) and Louis Har (70)”.

The hostages were taken to Sheba Medical Center in central Israel for tests.

Armon Aek, its acting director, said: “I’m very happy to announce that this night, two released hostages landed here.

“They were received in our ER [examination room] and initial examination was conducted by our ER staff and they are in a stable condition.”

They had been kidnapped by Hamas, the IDF said, in the 7 October cross-border attack that triggered the ground invasion.

Mr Marman’s niece said she was still “shaking” from the news of her uncle’s rescue.

“When I saw him I couldn’t believe he was real,” Gefen Sigal Ilan told AFP.

Israel’s military launched its operations in the Gaza Strip after about 1,200 people were killed in southern Israel on 7 October by Hamas gunmen, who also took 253 people hostage. A number of those hostages were later released.

On Monday, the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said 164 people had been killed and 200 injured in Gaza over the last day, although it is not clear exactly how many died in Israeli attacks overnight. The ministry says 28,340 Palestinians have been killed and nearly 68,000 wounded in the Strip since 7 October.

A number of countries and international organisations have warned Israel against conducting its planned offensive in Rafah, where an estimated 1.5 million people have sought refuge. Most of them have fled from the rest of Gaza.

UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron earlier said “over half of Gaza’s population are sheltering in the area”, while Saudi Arabia warned of “very serious repercussions” if Rafah was stormed.

Rafah – on the border with Egypt – is the only open point of entry for humanitarian aid into Gaza.

On Sunday, US President Joe Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that a Rafah offensive should not happen without measures to ensure the safety of civilians.

Mr Biden said Israel needed a “credible and executable plan” to protect the more than a million people in the city, according to the White House.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted it will go ahead and a plan is being prepared.

Meanwhile, Gaza’s Hamas rulers said there could be “tens of thousands” of casualties, warning that any operation would also undermine talks about a possible release of Israeli hostages held in the territory.

Rafah: The next battle?

Rafah: Israel says it will expand its military operations all the way south

More than a million displaced Palestinians have found shelter in the south of the Gaza strip after fleeing the fighting in the north.

Now Israel says it will expand its military operations all the way to the south – with heavy aerial bombardment reported in the Gaza area.

A ground invasion in the refugee-packed area could prove disastrous and the US has warned Israel not to attack without a “credible” plan to protect civilians.

International journalists are not allowed in Gaza. Our International editor Jeremy Bowen reports from the wall separating Bethlehem in the West Bank from Israeli-controlled Jerusalem.

Cameraman: Fred Scott

Video Journalist: Bruno Boelpaep

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Chiefs beat 49ers in overtime to defend Super Bowl title

The Kansas City Chiefs fought back to beat the San Francisco 49ers 25-22 in overtime and win their third Super Bowl in five years.

The 49ers came into the first Super Bowl held in Las Vegas as the slight favourites and were twice on the brink of victory at Allegiant Stadium.

A last-gasp field goal by the Chiefs made it 19-19 to send the game into overtime, and although the 49ers edged back in front, Patrick Mahomes’ touchdown pass to Mecole Hardman meant defending champions Kansas City cemented their status as the first NFL dynasty since the New England Patriots.

The Chiefs have reached four of the past five Super Bowls and became the first team to win back-to-back titles since the Patriots in the 2003 and 2004 seasons.

At just 28, Mahomes has become the sixth quarterback in NFL history to win three or more Super Bowls, while Andy Reid has become the fifth coach to win three or more. Mahomes labelled Reid “the greatest coach this game has ever seen” afterwards.

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While Kansas City’s win over the Philadelphia Eagles last season was a high-scoring epic, this will be seen as a classic by anyone who likes to see defences get on top, with San Francisco leading 10-3 at half-time.

But Mahomes still proved the difference, steering the Chiefs within range to make their game-tying field goal before keeping alive the nail-biting drive which resulted in Hardman’s touchdown.

That condemned the 49ers and their coach Kyle Shanahan to another painful defeat. The Chiefs began their Super Bowl streak with a fourth-quarter fightback against San Francisco in 2020 and their latest win came in the second Super Bowl to go to overtime – the first saw the Patriots produce a record comeback in 2016 before beating the Atlanta Falcons, whose offensive coordinator was Shanahan.

The 49ers remain five-time Super Bowl winners but have now lost in the big game three times since their last NFL title in 1995.

High-profile romance continues with Super Bowl win

This year’s Super Bowl attracted arguably more interest than ever before, with the US television audience expected to eclipse the record 115 million for Kansas City’s win over the Eagles last year.

This was the first Super Bowl to be held in the entertainment capital of the world, Prince Harry made a surprise appearance at the end-of-season awards ceremony in Vegas on Thursday and then there’s Taylor Swift.

The music superstar’s relationship with tight end Travis Kelce has brought a wealth of new fans to the Chiefs and the NFL in general, and there have even been conspiracy theories about the team’s play-off run being rigged to maintain that new interest and help get US President Joe Biden re-elected.

This week NFL commissioner Roger Goodell called those claims “nonsense”, while many media outlets speculated whether she would be able to attend the Super Bowl as she was performing in Tokyo on Saturday.

She made it, joining dozens of stars in the crowd at Allegiant Stadium, although it seemed she and Kelce would be disappointed at half-time. He took just one catch for one yard in the first half and showed his frustration by bumping into coach Reid and shouting in the 65-year-old’s face.

But Kelce, 34, ended the game with 93 receiving yards, with Mahomes passing for 333 yards and two touchdowns.

“Man, I was fired up – I was fired up that we weren’t hitting on all cylinders,” Kelce added.

“I had to give ‘Big Red’ [Reid] a love tap and let him know we were all here fighting for him no matter what. I just had to tell him I loved him real quick.

“I put so much trust in him and how he goes about being a head coach, as a leader – he’s one of the best leaders in the game.

“I can’t thank him enough for giving me opportunities year in, year out.”

Mahomes also rushed for 66 yards, including a scramble on fourth down in overtime when failure to make a first down would have handed victory to the 49ers.

That ensured Mahomes was named the Super Bowl’s Most Valuable Player for a third time and he is the first to win the award back-to-back since Terry Bradshaw (1979 and 1980).

Kelce already targeting ‘three-peat’ – What they said

Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes: “The whole game was just a microcosm of our entire season. The defence kept us in there, with the offence making plays when it counted. I’m just so proud of the guys.

“I know we’re going to celebrate tonight, but we’re not done. We’ve got a young team and we’re going to keep this thing going.”

On Andy Reid: “I believe he’s the best coach of all time. I know he doesn’t have the trophies yet, but the way he’s able to navigate every single team he has, continue to have success no matter where he’s at – I don’t think I’d be the quarterback that I am if I didn’t have coach Reid as my head coach.”

Chiefs coach Andy Reid: “Our defence played out of their mind. Our offence just kept persevering – kept pushing and pushing. I am so proud of the whole crew.”

Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce: “We’ve been fighting for this all year. The goal has always been to get three [in a row] but you can’t do it without getting two and we’ve had a target on our back all year.

“We get a chance to do it all again next year. I’ll see you there. Viva Las Vegas!”

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Shanahan fails to banish demons after blocked kick

While many hoped the two teams’ offensive stars would put on a show in the bright light city, defences dominated, which contributed to an error-strewn contest featuring four turnovers.

The first came on just the game’s fifth play after San Francisco running back Christian McCaffrey coughed up just his third fumble of the season, although the 49ers still opened the scoring with a field goal at the start of the second quarter.

With Mahomes and 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy struggling to get their offence going, San Francisco dialled up a trick play and wide receiver Jauan Jennings, who last threw a competitive pass in high school, found McCaffrey for a touchdown.

The Chiefs got on the board with a field goal right before half-time and they edged in front through a field goal and a Marquez Valdes-Scantling touchdown late in the third quarter.

The 49ers hit straight back and it looked as though Shanahan would banish the demons of his two previous Super Bowls after deciding to go for it on fourth down, with Purdy converting.

Two plays later he found Jennings, making him just the second player to both throw a touchdown pass and catch one in the same Super Bowl – after Nick Foles in the Eagles’ win over the Patriots in 2017.

But Jake Moody’s kick for the extra point was blocked, which proved crucial as it left the score at 16-13. The Chiefs could then tie it up with a field goal, as they did on the next drive and again with Harrison Butker’s fourth field goal that sent the game to overtime after Moody’s third had made it 19-16 with two minutes of regulation time remaining.

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Marathon record holder Kiptum dies in car accident

The men’s marathon world record holder, Kenya’s Kelvin Kiptum, 24, has died in a road accident in his home country.

He was killed alongside his coach, Rwanda’s Gervais Hakizimana, in a car on a road in western Kenya on Sunday.

Kiptum made a breakthrough in 2023 as a rival to compatriot Eliud Kipchoge – one of the greatest marathon runners.

Kiptum bettered Kipchoge’s record, clocking the 26.2 miles (42km) in two hours and 35 seconds in Chicago last October.

The two athletes had been named in Kenya’s provisional marathon team for the Paris Olympics later this year.

Kipchoge said on X that the man who broke his record was a rising star who had “a whole life” ahead of him to achieve “incredible greatness”, offering condolences to his family.

Also paying tribute, Kenya’s President William Ruto described Kiptum as an extraordinary sportsman who had left a mark on the world.

The road accident happened at about 23:00 local time (20:00 GMT) on Sunday.

Giving details of the crash, police said Kiptum was driving and had “lost control [of the vehicle] and veered off-road entering into a ditch on his left side”.

“He drove in the ditch for about 60 metres before hitting a big tree,” a police statement said.

Kiptum and Hakizimana died at the site of a collision. A third person – a young woman – was seriously injured and taken to hospital for treatment.

Just last week, Kiptum’s team announced that he would attempt to run the marathon in under two hours in Rotterdam in April – a feat that has never been achieved in open competition.

The rise to fame for the father-of-two had been rapid – he only competed in his first full marathon in 2022.

He made an instant impact as he ran the then fourth fastest time on record (2:01:53) to win the Valencia Marathon before setting a course record of 2:01:25 at the London Marathon in April 2023.

Six months later, in just his third marathon, Kiptum took 34 seconds off the world record time in Chicago in his final race.

He had already honed a distinct tactical approach that saw him run with the pack for 30km before upping the pace and going out on his own for the remainder of the race.

Kiptum entered his first major competition in 2018, running in borrowed shoes because he could not afford a pair of his own.

He was among a new crop of Kenyan athletes who began their careers on the road, breaking away from the past tradition of athletes starting on the track before switching to longer distances.

Kiptum told the BBC last year that his unusual choice was simply determined by a lack of resources.

“I had no money to travel to track sessions,” he explained.

People have gathered outside the hospital in the Rift Valley town of Eldoret where his body has been taken.

“I don’t know what to say but God, if we have done wrong, God forgive us because Kiptum was headed for great heights,” one man said.

“We want to say very sorry to the Kenyans and much more to the family of the departed hero. Very sorry,” another told a local TV channel.

Reacting to the news of his death, Kenyan Sports Minister Ababu Namwamba wrote on X: “Devastatingly sickening!! Kenya has lost a special gem. Lost for words.”

Kenya’s opposition leader and former prime minister, Raila Odinga, said the country had lost “a true hero” and was mourning “a remarkable individual… and Kenyan athletics icon”.

And Sebastian Coe, the president of World Athletics, said Kiptum was “an incredible athlete leaving an incredible legacy”.

Kiptum’s coach, Hakizimana, 36, was a retired Rwandese runner. Last year, he spent months helping Kiptum target the world record.

Their relationship as coach and athlete began in 2018, but the pair first met when the world record holder was much younger.

“I knew him when he was a little boy, herding livestock barefooted,” Hakizimana recalled last year. “It was in 2009, I was training near his father’s farm, he’d come kicking at my heels and I would chase him away.

“Now, I am grateful to him for his achievement.”

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