As Israel advances into Rafah, Hamas regroups in other areas of misruled Gaza

Israeli forces were fighting Palestinian militants in several areas of the Gaza Strip on Sunday, including parts of the devastated north that the army cleared months ago, and where Hamas has left a power vacuum to regroup. Have taken advantage of.

Israel has described the southern city of Rafah as Hamas’s last stronghold and said it must attack it to succeed in its goals of eliminating the group and capturing dozens of hostages. Limited operations have expanded into the city in recent days, forcing 300,000 people to flee.

On Sunday, Hamas claimed to have attacked Israeli troops near Rafah and Gaza City.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated US opposition to a broader attack on Rafah, telling CBS that without a solution for Gaza or a post-war government plan, Israel “will be left with the responsibility to suppress the insurgency”.

Egypt’s Foreign Ministry said it would join South Africa’s complaint to the International Court of Justice accusing Israel of genocide, which Israel vehemently denies. In its statement, the ministry cited “the increasing severity and magnitude of Israeli attacks against Palestinian civilians.”

UN Human Rights Commissioner Volker Turk said, “There cannot be a blanket offensive against Rafah.” He said he did not see how such aggressive behavior could respect international law.

Meanwhile, the rest of Gaza appears to provide ample opportunity for Hamas. Israel has not yet presented a detailed post-war governance plan and has only said it will maintain indefinite security control over the coastal area, where about 2.3 million Palestinians live.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected post-war plans proposed by the United States for the Palestinian Authority, which administers parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, to rule Gaza with the support of Arab and Muslim countries. Has been rejected. Those plans depend on progress toward creating a Palestinian state, which Netanyahu’s government strongly opposes.

While the two close allies remain divided, Gaza has been left without a functional government, leading to a breakdown in public order and allowing Hamas to regroup in even the most affected areas.

Palestinians reported intense Israeli shelling overnight in the urban refugee camp of Jabaliya and other areas of the northern Gaza Strip, which has suffered widespread destruction and has been virtually isolated by Israeli forces for months. UN officials say the region is suffering from “absolute famine”.

Israeli artillery and aircraft had struck the countryside east of Gaza City and the Zeitoun area, where troops have been fighting Palestinian militants for a week, residents of the area said. The army has asked thousands of people to move to the surrounding areas.

“It was a very difficult night,” said Abdel-Karim Radwan, a 48-year-old Palestinian from Jabaliya. He said that intense and continuous sounds of explosions could be heard since Saturday afternoon. “this is insane”.

Palestinian Civil Defense emergency workers said they had been unable to respond to multiple requests for help from both the areas and Rafah, the southern tip of the territory. Israeli troops have been fighting militants in the city since the army seized control of the nearby border with Egypt last week.

The Israeli military’s top spokesman, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, said troops were fighting in all areas of Gaza, “both in areas where we have not yet taken action and in places where we have taken action.”

In addition to Jabaliya and Zeitoun, he said, troops were operating in Beit Lahiya and Beit Hanoun, towns near Gaza’s northern border with Israel, which faced intense bombardment in the first days of the war.

Hamas’s military wing said it shelled Israeli special forces east of Jabaliya and fired mortars at troops and vehicles entering through the Rafah crossing.

In Israel, commentators said that an alternative to Hamas had to be found.

Columnist Ben Caspit in the Israeli newspaper Maariv expressed the growing frustration felt by many Israelis after more than seven months, writing, “The army is now going to Jabaliya for the second time and Zeitoun for the third time, and will keep coming and going.” Months of war.

Citing the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as examples, he wrote, “The Hamas regime cannot be overthrown without creating an alternative to that regime.” “The only people who can rule Gaza after the war are the Gazans, who will have plenty of support and help from outside.”

Five Israeli soldiers were killed in Zeitoun on Friday, and Palestinian militants fired 14 rockets toward the Israeli city of Beersheba that night. Another rocket fired overnight damaged a house in the Israeli city of Ashkelon, the army said on Sunday.

The UN Palestinian Refugee Agency, the main aid provider in Gaza, said 300,000 people have fled Rafah since the operation began. Most were headed for the nearby devastated city of Khan Yunis and Mawasi, a crowded tent camp on the coast where about 450,000 people are already living in precarious conditions.

Before the Israeli attack, Rafah was home to 1.3 million Palestinians, most of whom had fled from other parts of the region.

Israel has now evacuated the eastern third of Rafah, and Hagari said dozens of militants had been killed there as “targeted operations continue”. The United Nations has warned that a full-scale attack on Rafah would further weaken humanitarian operations and lead to civilian deaths.

Rafah is on the border with Egypt, close to the main aid entry points, which have already been affected. Israeli troops have captured the Gaza portion of the Rafah crossing, forcing its closure. According to state television Al Qahera, an unnamed official was quoted as saying that Egypt has refused to coordinate with Israel on aid delivery through the crossing due to “unacceptable Israeli escalation”.

US President Joe Biden said he would not provide offensive weapons to Israel for use in Rafah. His government said Friday there was “reasonable” evidence that Israel violated international law protections for civilians, Washington’s strongest statement yet on the issue.

Israel rejects those allegations, saying it tries to protect civilians from harm and blaming Hamas for the high death toll because it fights in densely populated areas.

The war began when Hamas and other militants attacked southern Israel on October 7, killing about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking 250 hostage. They still contain about 100 people and the remains of more than 30.

More than 34,800 Palestinians, mostly women and children, have been killed in Israeli land, sea and air strikes, according to Gaza’s health ministry, which does not distinguish between civilians and combatants in its figures. Israel said, without providing evidence, that it had killed more than 13,000 terrorists.

In the West Bank, the Palestinian Health Ministry said one person was killed by Israeli forces in the Balata refugee camp in Nablus. The army said its soldiers returned fire when they were shot at by terrorists at the spot.


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