Fighting escalates in Rafah as Israel pushes ahead with its offensive - GulfToday

Fighting escalates in Rafah as Israel pushes ahead with its offensive


Smoke rises above buildings following Israeli strikes in Rafah, as seen from Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, on Tuesday. Reuters

Palestinian residents of the southern Gaza city of Rafah have reported an escalation of fighting on Tuesday as Israeli forces pressed their assault on the border town once seen as the territory's last refuge.

Israel says it is carrying out limited operations in eastern Rafah along the Gaza-Egypt border, as the United States and other allies of Israel have warned against a full-fledged offensive in the city.

Israeli shelling and airstrikes west of Rafah killed at least 37 people overnight and on Tuesday, most of them sheltering in tents, according to witnesses, emergency workers and hospital officials. The strikes pummeled the same area where strikes on Sunday triggered a deadly fire that engulfed tents in a camp for displaced Palestinians, killing 45 people.

Israeli leaders say their forces must enter Rafah to dismantle Hamas and return hostages taken in the Oct. 7 attack that triggered the war.

Fighting in Rafah has caused more than 1 million Palestinians to flee, most of whom had already been displaced in the war between Israel and Hamas. They now seek refuge in squalid tent camps and other war-ravaged areas, where they lack shelter, food, water and other essentials for survival, the UN says.

Over a million Palestinians have fled Rafah so far. Reuters

Israeli bombardments and ground offensives in Gaza have killed more than 36,000 Palestinians, according to the Health Ministry, which doesn’t distinguish between combatants and civilians.

Israel launched its war in Gaza after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack in which fighters stormed into southern Israel, killed some 1,200 people - mostly civilians - and abducted about 250. Israel says around 100 hostages are still captive in Gaza, along with the bodies of around 30 more.

Associated Press

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