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Israel defiant on Rafah assault as US-backed ceasefire text fails at UN

PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES — Israel plans to send troops into Gaza's Rafah even without US support, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the US top diplomat on Friday, as Washington failed to pass a UN resolution on an "immediate" ceasefire.

Almost six months of Israeli bombardment since Hamas's October 7 attack has brought Gaza to its knees with many thousands killed, infrastructure shattered and widespread warnings that its 2.4 million people are on the verge of famine.

Washington has repeatedly blocked Gaza ceasefire resolutions at the UN Security Council but tried to pass a text mentioning an "immediate ceasefire as part of a hostage deal".

Many countries backed the renewed diplomatic push to pause the war, but China and Russia vetoed the US text, which Arab governments complained was too weak and put no pressure on Israel.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was on a whistlestop tour of the region to support truce talks in Qatar that involve indirect negotiations between Israeli and Hamas representatives.

The violence meanwhile continued, with Israeli forces raiding Gaza's largest hospital complex for a fifth day, claiming to have killed more than 150 "terrorists" in the ongoing operation Hamas has labelled "criminal".

Israel also continued to pound the southern city of Rafah and its surroundings, where most of Gaza's population has taken shelter.

Standing in the ruins of a partly destroyed house in Rafah, resident Nabil Abu Thabet said "innocent civilians" had been pulled out "in pieces".

"People were targeted at 1:00 am, when they were asleep," he told AFP.

Netanyahu said he had told Blinken on Friday that there was "no way to defeat Hamas" without troops entering Rafah, a plan that has provoked international concern for the 1.5 million civilians trapped in the city.

"I told him I hope to do that with the support of the United States, but if we need to, we will do it alone," Netanyahu said.

At the UN Security Council, Russia and China vetoed the US draft, but French President Emmanuel Macron later said diplomats would keep pushing for a consensus text.

Russian ambassador Vasily Nebenzia said the US text would "ensure the impunity of Israel, whose crimes