Tue. Jul 23rd, 2024

Israeli forces pounded Rafah in southern Gaza on Friday, as well as other areas across the enclave, killing at least 45 Palestinians as troops engaged in close-quarter combat with Hamas militants, residents and Israel’s military said.

Residents said the Israelis appeared to be trying to complete their capture of Rafah, which borders Egypt and has been the focus of an Israeli assault since early May.

Tanks were forcing their way into the western and northern parts of the city, having already captured the east, south and centre. Firing from planes, tanks and ships off the coast drove a new wave of displacement from the city, which had been sheltering more than a million displaced people, most of whom have now had to flee again.

The Gaza health ministry said at least 25 Palestinians had been killed in Mawasi in western Rafah and 50 wounded. Palestinians said a tank shell had hit a tent housing displaced families.

“Two tanks climbed a hilltop overseeing Mawasi and they sent balls of fire that hit the tents of the poor people displaced in the area,” one resident told Reuters over a chat app.

Palestinian health officials said at least 45 Palestinians had been killed in Israeli strikes on Friday. The Israeli military said it was looking into the reported strikes on Mawasi and a separate incident in Gaza City. It said its forces were conducting “precise, intelligence-based” actions in the Rafah area, where troops were involved in close-quarter combat and had located tunnels used by militants.

The military also said that over the past week its forces had targeted a university that it said served as a Hamas headquarters from which militants had fired on its soldiers, and had found weapons and barrel bombs. It did not name the university.

Also Read: | ICJ orders Israel to halt military assault in Rafah: The case and the ruling

In the central area of Nusseirat, the military said soldiers had killed dozens of militants over the past week and found a weapons depot containing mortar bombs and military equipment belonging to Hamas. Some residents said the Israeli onslaught on Rafah had intensified in the previous two days and that the sounds of explosions and gunfire had hardly stopped.

“Last night was one of the worst nights in western Rafah: drones, planes, tanks, and naval boats bombarded the area. We feel the occupation is trying to complete the control of the city,” said Hatem, 45, reached by text message. “They are taking heavy strikes from the resistance fighters, which may be slowing them down.”

Strikes on Khan Younis and Gaza city

More than eight months into the war in Gaza, Israel’s advance is now focused on the two last areas its forces had yet to seize: Rafah on Gaza’s southern edge and the area surrounding Deir al-Balah in the centre.

“The entire city of Rafah is an area of Israeli military operations,” Ahmed Al-Sofi, the mayor of Rafah, said in a statement carried by Hamas media on Friday. “The city is living through a humanitarian catastrophe and people are dying inside their tents because of Israeli bombardment.”

Sofi said no medical facility was functioning in the city, and that remaining residents and displaced families lacked the minimum daily needs of food and water.

Palestinian and U.N. figures show that fewer than 100,000 people may have remained in the far western side of the city, which had been sheltering more than half of Gaza’s 2.3 million people before the Israeli assault began in early May.

Also Read: | Divisions between Israel’s military and government spill into open

In nearby Khan Younis, an Israeli air strike on Friday killed three people, including a father and son, medics said.
In parallel, Israeli forces continued a new push back into some Gaza City suburbs in the north of the enclave, where they fought with Hamas-led militants.

Residents said the Israelis had destroyed many homes in the heart of Gaza City on Thursday. On Friday, an Israeli air strike on a Gaza City municipal facility killed five people, including four municipal workers, the territory’s Civil Emergency Service said. Rescue teams were searching the rubble for more missing victims.

In the nearby Beach camp, an Israeli air strike on a house killed at least seven people, medics said.

Israel’s ground and air campaign was triggered when Hamas-led militants stormed into southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and seizing more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

The offensive has left Gaza in ruins, killed more than 37,400 people, according to Palestinian health authorities, and left nearly the entire population homeless and destitute.

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By KB1128

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