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Strikes continue in Gaza, as UN Court orders Israel to halt Rafah assault

May 24, 2024 at 4:51 pm

Relatives of the Palestinians who lost their lives in Israeli attacks over Deir al-Balah, mourn as the bodies are brought to morgue of Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir al-Balah, Gaza on May 24, 2024 [Ashraf Amra/Anadolu Agency]

Israeli forces stepped up military strikes on Gaza on Friday, residents and medics said, with planes bombing targets in the southern city of Rafah even as the UN’s top Court ordered Israel to halt its offensive there, Reuters reports.

Heavy fighting was also reported in Jabalya, in the north, where Israel’s military said it had recovered the bodies of three hostages killed during the Hamas-led attacks on 7 October that triggered the war.

In Rafah, where an escalating Israeli assault has sent hundreds of thousands of people fleeing from what was one of the few remaining places of refuge, residents reported intensifying aerial and ground bombardment in the south and centre of the city that borders Egypt.

As the fighting raged, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), also known as the World Court, said the situation in Rafah was now “disastrous” and ordered Israel to “immediately halt its military offensive”.

The ruling was in response to a request by South Africa in part of a wider case accusing Israel of genocide.

Israel has repeatedly dismissed that accusation as baseless and had signalled it would ignore any ruling to halt its offensive by the Court, which has no enforcement powers. It says it has no choice but to attack Rafah to root out the last battalions of Hamas fighters it believes are sheltering there.

READ: BREAKING: ICJ orders Israel ‘to immediately halt’ Rafah offensive

Residents and Palestinian media reported a series of strikes hitting roads and houses in the Shaboura neighbourhood in central Rafah shortly after the ICJ ruling was read out in The Hague.

Israel launched its assault on Gaza following a Hamas-led attack on southern Israeli communities on 7 October that killed 1,200 people and saw more than 250 hostages seized, according to Israeli tallies.

However, since then, it has been revealed by Haaretz that helicopters and tanks of the Israeli army had, in fact, killed many of the 1,139 soldiers and civilians claimed by Israel to have been killed by the Palestinian Resistance.

Since then, Israel’s incursion has killed more than 35,000 people, according to Gaza health authorities.

Bodies recovered 

In northern Gaza, medics said at least five Palestinians were killed when houses were hit in Jabalya and more were believed to be trapped under rubble, but that the area could not be reached due to the intensity of the bombardment.

The Israeli military said it had recovered the bodies of three hostages taken into Gaza after they were killed on 7 October.

It said the bodies of Hanan Yablonka, Michel Nisenbaum and Orion Hernandez Radoux were recovered overnight in a joint operation by the army and the intelligence services in Jabalya.

Israel says its twin goals in Gaza are bringing back the remaining hostages and destroying Hamas.

“We will not stop fighting for their freedom,” said military spokesperson, Rear-Admiral, Daniel Hagari, in a televised statement announcing the recovery of the three bodies. “Every decent country would do the same.”

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.

Israel had said its forces cleared Jabalya, the largest of Gaza’s eight historic refugee camps, months earlier in the war. But it returned there this month saying it needed to prevent fighters regrouping, and the area has seen intense fighting in recent weeks.

Residents said, on Friday, tanks had destroyed the local market and bulldozers continued to raze shops and property in Jabalya’s narrow alleys. Hamas’s armed wing said its fighters had engaged three tanks there.

Tanks also advanced close to the nearby Kamal Adwan Hospital, where medics said Israeli fire had caused the suspension of operations at the last functioning medical facility in northern Gaza Strip.

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