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Israel forces kill dozens of Palestinians in Gaza strikes, battle Hamas in Rafah

May 23, 2024 at 5:14 pm

Palestinians mourn for their relatives killed by Israeli attack on the house belonging to the Al-Shami family in Nuseirat Refugee Camp, on May 23, 2024 in Deir al-Balah, Gaza. [ Ashraf Amra – Anadolu Agency]

Israeli forces killed at least 38 Palestinians in aerial and ground bombardments across the Gaza Strip on Thursday and battled in close combat with Hamas fighters in areas of the southern city of Rafah, health officials and Gaza media said.

Israeli tanks advanced in Rafah’s south-east, edged towards the city’s western district of Yibna and continued to operate in three eastern suburbs, residents said, Reuters reports.

“The Occupation (Israeli forces) is trying to move further to the west, they are on the edge of Yibna, which is densely populated. They didn’t invade it yet,” one resident said, asking not to be named.

“We hear explosions and we see black smoke coming up from the areas where the army has invaded. It was another very difficult night,” he told Reuters via a chat app.

Simultaneous Israeli assaults on the northern and southern edges of Gaza this month have caused a new exodus of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fleeing their homes, and have cut off the main access routes for aid, raising the risk of famine.

Khan Yunis: ‘Everywhere you turn you see destruction’

UNRWA, the main United Nations agency in Gaza, estimated as of Monday that more than 800,000 people had fled Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah since Israel began targeting the city in early May, despite international pleas for restraint.

Suze van Meegan, the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Emergency Response Leader in Gaza, said many civilians were still stuck.

The city of Rafah is now comprised of three entirely different worlds: the east is an archetypal war zone, the middle is a ghost town and the west is a congested mass of people living in deplorable conditions

she said in a statement.

In parallel, Israeli forces stepped up a ground offensive in Jabalia, where the military has razed several residential areas, and struck nearby Beit Hanoun town, areas where Israel declared major operations over months ago.

A senior Hamas security official, Diaa Aldeen Al-Shurafa, was killed in an Israeli strike as he toured residential districts of Gaza City, the Interior Ministry in Gaza said.

The Israeli military said three soldiers had been killed in the fighting on Wednesday, raising the number killed since Gaza incursions began on 20 October to 286 soldiers.

READ: Israel vows not to comply with orders from top UN Court to halt Gaza war