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Israel-Hamas war: Israel pushes deeper into Rafah, forcing some 300,000 to flee

RAFAH, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israeli forces were battling Palestinian militants across the Gaza Strip on Sunday, including parts of the devastated north that the army said it was fixed months agowhere Hamas exploited a security vacuum to regroup.

Israel has presented the town of Rafah in southern Gaza as Hamas’ last bastion, saying it must invade to succeed in dismantling the group and returning many hostages. A limited operation there has expanded in recent days, forcing some 300,000 people to flee and drawing warnings from Egypt, where an official said it was putting the country at risk. decades-old peace treaty with Israel in danger.

But the rest of the war-ravaged territory appears to offer Hamas plenty of opportunities. Israel has not yet proposed a detailed plan for post-war governance in Gaza, saying only that it would do so. maintain an open security check on the coastal enclave, which is home to some 2.3 million Palestinians.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected post-war plans proposed by the United States under which the Palestinian Authority, which administers part of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, would govern Gaza with the support of Arab and Muslim countries. These plans depend on progress toward the creation of a Palestinian state, something Netanyahu’s government is deeply opposed to.

With the two close allies divided, Gaza was left without a functioning government, leading to a breakdown in law and order and allowing Hamas to reconstitute itself even in the hardest-hit areas.

The war began when Hamas and other militants attacked southern Israel on October 7, killing around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking another 250 hostages. They still hold around 100 prisoners and the remains of more than 30 people, and international talks on a ceasefire and the release of hostages appear to have stalled.

The Israeli air, land and sea offensive has killed more than 35,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children, according to Gaza’s health ministry, which does not distinguish between civilians and combatants in its figures. Israel claims to have killed more than 13,000 militants, without providing evidence.


Palestinians reported intense overnight Israeli shelling in the Jabaliya urban refugee camp and other areas of the northern Gaza Strip, which suffered considerable damage and have been largely isolated by Israeli forces since months. UN officials say there is a “a real famine” there.

Palestinians mourn their loved ones killed during Israeli bombardments on the Gaza Strip, outside the morgue of Al Aqsa Hospital in Deir al Balah, Gaza Strip, Saturday, May 11, 2024. (AP Photo/Abdel Kareem Hana)

Palestinian doctors treat a man injured during the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip at Al Aqsa Hospital in Deir al Balah, Gaza Strip, Saturday, May 11, 2024. (AP Photo/Saher Alghorra)

Palestinian doctors treat a man injured during the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip at Al Aqsa Hospital in Deir al Balah, Gaza Strip, Saturday, May 11, 2024. (AP Photo/Saher Alghorra)

Residents said Israeli warplanes and artillery struck the Zeitoun camp and area, east of Gaza City, where troops have been fighting Palestinian militants for more than a week. They called on tens of thousands of people to relocate to neighboring areas.

“It was a very difficult night,” said Abdel-Kareem Radwan, a 48-year-old Palestinian from Jabaliya. He said they could hear intense and constant shelling since midday on Saturday. “This is madness.”

Palestinian Civil Defense first responders said they were unable to respond to multiple calls for help from both areas, as well as Rafah.

Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, the Israeli military’s main spokesman, said that in addition to Jabaliya and Zeitoun, forces were also operating in Beit Lahiya and Beit Hanoun. The two towns near Gaza’s northern border with Israel were heavily bombarded from the first days of the war.

The army “is now entering Jabaliya for the second time and Zeitoun for the third time, and it will continue to move in and out,” columnist Ben Caspit wrote in the Israeli daily Maariv, channeling public opinion. growing frustration felt by many Israelis more than seven months of war.

“The Hamas regime cannot be overthrown without preparing an alternative to this regime,” he wrote, drawing comparisons with the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. “The only ones who can govern Gaza after the war are the Gazans, with a lot of support and help from outside. »

Palestinians displaced by the Israeli air and ground offensive on the Gaza Strip arrive at a makeshift tent camp west of Rafah, Gaza, Friday, May 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Abdel Kareem Hana)

Palestinians displaced by the Israeli air and ground offensive on the Gaza Strip arrive at a makeshift tent camp west of Rafah, Gaza, Friday, May 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Abdel Kareem Hana)


The United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, the main aid provider in Gaza, said 300,000 people fled Rafah since the operation started there. Most head towards the neighboring town of Khan Younis, heavily damaged or Mawasi, an overcrowded tent camp on the coast where some 450,000 people already live in squalid conditions.

Rafah was home to some 1.3 million Palestinians before the Israeli operation began, most of whom had fled fighting elsewhere in the territory.

Israel has now evacuated the eastern third of Rafah, and Hagari said dozens of militants had been killed there as “targeted operations continued.” The United Nations has warned that a full-scale invasion of Rafah would result in further paralyze humanitarian operations and cause an increase in the number of civilian deaths.

Rafah borders Egypt, close to the main aid entry points, which have already been affected. Israeli troops have captured the Gaza side of the Rafah crossing, forcing it to close. Egypt refused to coordinate with Israel on the delivery of aid through the crossing due to “Israel’s unacceptable escalation”, state broadcaster Al Qahera News reported, citing an unnamed official.

A senior Egyptian official told The Associated Press that Cairo had lodged protests with Israel, the United States and European governments, saying the offensive was putting the peace treaty with Israel in grave danger – a stone cornerstone of regional stability.

The official was not authorized to brief the media and spoke on condition of anonymity.

US President Joe Biden said he would not provide offensive weapons to Israel for Rafah. On Friday, his administration said it was “reasonable” proof that Israel had violated international law protect civilians – Washington’s strongest statement on the issue.

Israel rejects the allegations, saying it is trying to avoid harming civilians. He blames Hamas for the heavy toll, because the militants are fighting in dense residential areas. But the army rarely comments on individual strikes, which often kill women and children.

The Gaza Health Ministry said a strike Saturday evening in central Gaza killed Mohammed Qazaat and his son Youssef, both prominent local dentists.


Krauss reported from Jerusalem and Magdy from Cairo.


Follow AP’s coverage of the war at

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