Israel pummels Gaza killing tens of Palestinians as troops push into central Rafah

AFP , Ahram Online , Friday 31 May 2024

Israeli occupation forces on Friday struck the Gaza Strip, intensifying indiscriminate bombing around the southern city of Rafah, the latest focus of the nearly eight-month war on Palestinians in Gaza.

This handout picture, released by the Israeli military on May 31, 2024, shows an Israeli army tank during an incursion in the Gaza Strip. AFP


Witnesses said Friday Israeli strikes hit the Rafah area as well as central Gaza's Nuseirat, and an AFP correspondent reported intense bombardment in the north.

Strikes on two separate locations killed a total of 11 people overnight, medical sources at a hospital in Deir al-Balah and the Nuseirat refugee camp reported.

A medical official at Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in central Gaza's Deir al-Balah said eight people, including two children, were killed in an Israeli air strike that hit a house in Al-Bureij refugee camp.



Another source at Nuseirat's Al-Awda Hospital reported three killed in an Israeli strike on a car.

Citing Gaza medics, Reuters said that Israeli forces killed at least 12 Palestinians in an airstrike on Rafah in southern Gaza, on Thursday.

Israel launched its military incursion into Rafah in early May despite international objections over the safety of civilians sheltering in the city on Gaza's border with Egypt.

An Israeli strike that killed at least 45 Palestinians, many of them children, in a camp for displaced civilians at the weekend drew a wave of fresh condemnation.

Yet, the Israeli army said its troops "continue... operational activities" in the Rafah area and the city's centre, while in central Gaza, further air strikes were carried out.

Israel said on Wednesday its forces had taken over the 14-kilometre (8.5-mile) Philadelphi corridor along the Gaza-Egypt border.

Egypt, a longtime mediator in the conflict, has yet to officially comment on the Israeli takeover, which officials have previously said could violate the two countries' 1979 peace deal.

Amid stalled diplomatic efforts towards a ceasefire, Hamas said it had informed mediators it would only agree a "comprehensive" truce agreement including a captive-prisoner swap if Israel halts its "aggression".

Since the start of Israel's army escalation in Rafah, hundreds of thousands have fled the city, taking their belongings on their shoulders, in cars or on donkey-drawn carts.

"The Israeli military continues to push Gazans inexorably into areas that it declares safe, but which are in reality exposed to bombing and fighting," Caroline Seguin, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) head of emergency programmes in Gaza said in an online interview on Thursday.

"The whole population is within range of bombs, gunfire and tank shelling, and anyone can be killed, including humanitarian workers in a clearly marked convoy," she added.

Aid at sea

Before the Rafah attack began, the United Nations said up to 1.4 million people were sheltering in the city. Since then, one million have fled the area, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, has said.

The United Nations has warned of looming famine in Gaza as Israel has closed all land crossings into the Palestinian territory only allowing sporadic aid deliveries through the Karm Abu Salem crossing.

The Israeli seizure of the Rafah crossing has further complicated efforts to deliver aid for Gaza's 2.4 million people and effectively shuttered the territory's main exit point.

Cyprus, the European Union's easternmost member, said humanitarian aid shipped to Gaza was being kept at sea off the territory's coast, after a US-built pier was damaged in bad weather.

Car, house hit

Israel's bloodiest war on Gaza has killed at least 36,224 Palestinians and wounded more than 80,000 others, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry.

An AFP correspondent saw Israeli army vehicles southwest of Gaza City, in the territory's north.

The latest casualties of Israel's brutal war come as Sunday's Israeli strike, which killed dozens of civilians at the Rafah displacement camp, has prompted two days of discussions at the UN Security Council.

After the strike, Algeria presented a draft resolution to the UN Security Council demanding an immediate ceasefire and the release of all captives, but it was unclear when it would be voted on.

The United States, the strong supporter of Israel, said Wednesday that such resolution “is not going to be helpful.”

U.S. deputy ambassador Robert Wood told reporters ahead of Wednesday’s monthly Mideast meeting that “another resolution is not necessarily going to change anything on the ground.”

Around the same time, Israeli war cabinet minister Benny Gantz's centrist party submitted a bill to dissolve parliament for an early election, drawing criticism from Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party.


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