Gaza fighting rages after Israel declares it will intensify Rafah attack

AFP , Friday 17 May 2024

Fighting raged Friday in Gaza after Israel announced it would to intensify its ground attack on Rafah despite international concerns for the 1.4 million of displaced Palestinians in the southern city.

Palestinian who fled Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip ride with their belongings in the back of a tr
Palestinian who fled Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip ride with their belongings in the back of a truck, as they arrive to take shelter in Deir el-Balah in the central part of the Palestinian territory on May 12, 2024, amid the ongoing Israeli war on Gaza. AFP


Witnesses reported fierce battles overnight in and around the Jabalia refugee camp in the north of the war-ravaged Gaza Strip.

Israeli helicopters carried out heavy strikes around Jabalia while army artillery hit homes near Kamal Adwan Hospital in the camp, they said.

The bodies of six Palestinians were retrieved and several wounded people were evacuated after an Israeli air strike hit a house in Jabalia, Gaza's Civil Defence agency said.

Rescue teams were trying to recover people from under the rubble of the Shaaban family home on Al-Faluja Street in the camp, it added.

Witnesses said Israeli warships launched strikes on Rafah, on the border with Egypt, where more than 1.4 million Palestinian civilians have been sheltering.

Hamas's armed wing, the Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades, said in a statement that it "targeted enemy forces stationed inside the Rafah border crossing... with mortar shells".

Israel said it would "intensify" its ground attack in Rafah, in defiance of global warnings over the fate of Palestinians sheltering there.

Israel's top ally the United States has joined other major powers in appealing for it to hold back from a full ground invasion of Rafah.

But Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant on Thursday said "additional forces will enter" the Rafah area and "this activity will intensify".

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted Thursday that the ground attack on Rafah was a "critical" part of the occupation army's mission.

The Israeli siege of Gaza has brought dire shortages of food as well as safe water, medicines and fuel for its 2.4 million people.

The arrival of occasional aid convoys has slowed to a trickle since Israeli forces took control last week of the Gaza side of the Rafah crossing.


Maritime corridor

US troops on Thursday anchored a long-awaited temporary pier aimed at delivering emergency aid to a Gaza beach.

The first trucks carrying aid rumbled down the pier on Friday morning, said the US Central Command, or CENTCOM.

Around 500 tonnes of aid is expected to enter Gaza in the coming days, according to CENTCOM.

The United Nations has warned, however, that the maritime aid corridor, and ongoing airdrops from planes, cannot replace far more efficient overland truck deliveries.

Many of those fleeing Rafah have headed for the coastal area of Al-Mawasi which Israel has declared a "humanitarian zone".

Satellite images also show a vast new tent city that has sprung up near the main southern city of Khan Yunis.

Many of the displaced are "exhausted, they are scared, they don't have resources", said Javed Ali, head of emergency response in Gaza for International Medical Corps.


Arab call for peacekeepers

On the diplomatic front, the Arab League issued a call on Thursday for "international protection and peacekeeping forces of the United Nations" to be deployed in the occupied Palestinian territories to protect the Palestinians.

In a statement at the end of a summit in Bahrain, the 22-member bloc also appealed for an "immediate" ceasefire in Gaza and an end to forced displacement in the narrow coastal territory.

The United States claimed a UN peacekeeping force could compromise Israel's efforts to defeat Hamas while stopping short of opposing it.

"Candidly, the addition of additional security forces could potentially put that mission into compromise," State Department spokesman Vedant Patel told reporters.

But he said the United States did not yet have a "conclusive assessment" of the summit's statement and suggested that a force could be more acceptable once a ceasefire is in place.

Despite previous threats by President Joe Biden to withhold some arms deliveries over the Rafah offensive, his administration informed Congress this week of a new $1 billion weapons package for Israel, sources told AFP.

Washington said in a report that it was "reasonable to assess" that Israel has used weapons in instances “inconsistent” with its obligations under international humanitarian law “or with best practices for mitigating civilian harm” during the seven-month war.

At the United Nations' top court in The Hague, Israel tried to hit back on Friday at accusations from South Africa that it has escalated a campaign of genocide with its military attack in Rafah, imploring judges to order a ceasefire throughout Gaza.

"There is a tragic war going on but there is no genocide," its lawyer Gilad Noam claimed at the International Court of Justice, arguing the accusations are "completely divorced from the facts".


Short link: