Israel pushes deeper into southern and northern Gaza

Nidal al-Mughrabi |

Israeli forces have deepened their incursion into two northern and southern areas of the Gaza Strip, and Palestinian health officials say tank shelling in Rafah killed at least 11 people.

Residents and Hamas media said tanks advanced further west into the Shakoush neighbourhood of Rafah, forcing thousands of displaced people there to leave their tent camps and head northward to the nearby Khan Younis.

The Israeli military did not immediately comment.

Since May 7, tanks have advanced in several districts of Rafah, and forces remained in control of the entire border line with Egypt and the Rafah crossing, the only gateway for most of Gaza’s 2.3 million people with the outside world.

One resident, who spoke to Reuters via a chat app, said some bulldozers in the Shakoush area were piling up sand for Israeli tanks to station behind.

People at an displaced persons camp in Khan Yunis refugee camp
More families have left Rafah towards Khan Younis as Israel advances deeper into the city. (EPA PHOTO)

“Some families live in the area of the raid and are now besieged by the occupation forces,” he told Reuters on Friday.

“The situation there is very dangerous and many families are leaving towards Khan Younis, even from the Mawasi area as things became unsafe for them,” said the man, who moved northward overnight.

More than eight months into Israel’s air and ground war in Gaza triggered by the Hamas-led cross-border attack on October 7, the armed wings of Hamas and Islamic Jihad continue to stage attacks on Israeli forces operating in areas over which the army said it had gained control months ago.

The Palestinian groups sometimes still fire rockets into Israeli territory.

Arab mediators’ efforts, backed by the United States, have so far failed to conclude a ceasefire.

Hamas says any deal must end the war and bring full Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, while Israel says it will accept only temporary pauses in fighting until Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2007, is eradicated.

When Hamas-led militants stormed into southern Israel last October they killed about 1200 people and seized more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

A woman holds the body of her daughter in Maghazi refugee camp, Gaza
Over 37,000 people have been killed in the eight-month war, according to the Gaza health ministry. (AP PHOTO)

The Israeli offensive in retaliation has killed more than 37,000 people, according to the Gaza health ministry, and has left the tiny, heavily built-up coastal enclave in ruins.

In parallel, Israeli forces continued their new raid into the Shejaia neighbourhood in the northern Gaza Strip, into which tanks advanced on Thursday prompting heavy fighting with Hamas-led militants.

Medics said earlier that several Palestinians have been killed and wounded in Israeli bombardment and that medical teams have been unable to reach all casualties because of the military offensive.

The Israeli military said forces were conducting “targeted” raids in Shejaia, adding the air force struck dozens of Hamas military targets in the area.

It said that one Hamas militant, who was operating from a humanitarian-designated area, was killed in a strike it launched in the Deir Al-Balah area in central Gaza.

It said measures were taken to ensure no harm to civilians, accusing Hamas of systematically using Palestinian civilians as shields. Hamas denies that.

with AP