Israel pushes into central Rafah in southern Gaza offensive: live updates


Tents were destroyed in an Israeli attack west of Rafah this week. Many Palestinians sought refuge in the city after Israel ordered a mass evacuation from northern Gaza in late October.debt…Jehad Alshrafi/Associated Press

The Israeli military said on Friday its forces had advanced into central Rafah, pushing deeper into southern Gaza City despite international backlash and pressure from allies to pull back on a recent offensive.

Israeli commandos, backed by tanks and artillery, were operating in central Rafah, the Israeli military said in a statement, without specifying the exact locations. On Wednesday, the Israeli military said it had established “operational control” over the border zone with Egypt, an eight-mile stretch known as the Philadelphia Corridor, on the outskirts of Rafah.

More than a million Palestinians in Rafah, about half the territory’s total population, have fled the Israeli offensive over the past few weeks, according to the United Nations, many of them displaced for a second or third time in the conflict. Many sought refuge there after Israel ordered a mass evacuation of northern Gaza in late October, after the city’s population swelled to 1.4 million.

Despite concerns from close allies such as the United States about the safety of displaced Palestinians and other civilians taking refuge there, Israel continued its offensive in Rafah. Israeli officials say Hamas cannot be defeated in Gaza without rooting out Hamas forces in Gaza and destroying the group’s network of cross-border tunnels that smuggle weapons and other goods from neighboring Egypt.

But the attack has deepened the misery of many ordinary Palestinians. On Sunday, at least 45 people were killed in a single Israeli attack, according to Gazan health officials. The Israeli military said the bombing targeted two Hamas commanders, but accidentally ignited a fire in a nearby civilian shelter.

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Last week, the International Court of Justice ordered Israel to curb the ongoing military offensive in Rafah, warning of irreparable harm to civilians, although some judges wrote that Israel could still take some military action. Despite that pressure, the Israeli military described its Rafah campaign as limited and precise.

Commercially available satellite images taken by Planet Labs on Thursday showed the Israeli army setting up positions in parts of central Rafah, while military vehicles and tanks could be seen on the outskirts of Tel al-Sultan area in western Rafah.







According to satellite photos from May 22, much of eastern Rafah has been destroyed since the offensive began in early May, especially around the border crossing with Egypt. in the area.

Source: Satellite images from Planet Labs

The Rafah Crossing has served as a key route for humanitarian aid into Gaza amid widespread shortages and starvation. It served as the main gateway for sick and injured Gaza residents to escape the fighting and receive emergency medical treatment.

Israeli officials say the portal has been at the center of smuggling operations for Hamas, which has been under a crushing Israeli-Egyptian blockade since the Palestinian Authority seized control of Gaza in 2007.

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The crossing has been closed since its capture by Israeli forces, and Israeli, Egyptian and Palestinian officials have been unable to reach an agreement to resume operations there.

After U.S. pressure, Egypt this week began diverting some aid trucks to Israeli-controlled Kerem Shalom in an effort to mitigate a sharp decline in aid entering Gaza.

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