Creating new perspectives since 2009

Israel bombardment kills dozens across Gaza, amid fierce fighting

June 21, 2024 at 6:20 pm

Palestinian mother Watfa Mahmud Al-Nashash walks among the debris at the Bureij refugee camp, after she lost four of her children as a result of an Israeli attack at the Gaza Strip on June 18, 2024. [Hasan Jedi – Anadolu Agency]

Israeli forces pounded Rafah in southern Gaza on Friday, as well as other areas across the enclave, killing at least 32 Palestinians as troops engaged in close-quarter combat with Hamas fighters, residents and Israel’s military said.

Residents said the Israelis appeared to be trying to complete their capture of Rafah, which borders Egypt and has been the focus of an Israeli assault since early May, Reuters reports.

Tanks were forcing their way into the western and northern parts of the city, having already captured the east, south and centre. Israeli forces fired from planes, tanks and ships off the coast, forcing a new wave of displacement from the city, which had been sheltering more than a million displaced people, most of whom have been forced to flee again.

Later, on Friday, Palestinian health officials said at least 12 Palestinians were killed in Mawasi in western Rafah in what Palestinians said was a tank shelling that hit a tent housing displaced families.

Palestinian health officials said at least 32 Palestinians had been killed in separate Israeli military strikes on Friday.

READ: Gaza Media Office: 36 prisoners tortured to death in Israel’s jails since 7 October

The Israeli military said, on Friday, it was looking into the reported strikes on Mawasi and a separate incident in Gaza City.

It said its forces were conducting “precise, intelligence-based” actions in the Rafah area, where troops were involved in close-quarter combat and had located tunnels used by fighters.

The military also said that, over the past week, its forces had targeted a university that it said served as a Hamas headquarters from which fighters fired on its soldiers and had found weapons and barrel bombs. It did not name the university.

In the central Gaza Strip area of Nusseirat, the military said, soldiers killed dozens of fighters over the past week and found a weapons depot that contained mortar bombs and military equipment belonging to Hamas.

Some Rafah residents said the pace of the Israeli raid has accelerated in the past two days. They said sounds of explosions and gunfire, indicating fierce fighting, have been almost non-stop.

Last night was one of the worst nights in western Rafah; drones, planes, tanks, and naval boats bombarded the area. We feel the Occupation is trying to complete the control of the city 

said Hatem, 45, reached by text message.

They are taking heavy strikes from the Resistance fighters, which may be slowing them down

Areas of focus 

More than eight months into the war in Gaza, Israel’s advance is now focused on the two last areas its forces had yet to storm: Rafah on Gaza’s southern edge and the area surrounding Deir Al-Balah in the centre.

“The entire city of Rafah is an area of Israeli military operations,” Ahmed Al-Sofi, the Mayor of Rafah, said in a statement carried by Gaza media on Friday.

“The city lives through a humanitarian catastrophe and people are dying inside their tents because of Israeli bombardment,” he added.

Sofi said there was no medical facility functioning in the city, and that remaining residents and displaced families lacked the minimum daily needs of food and water.

Palestinian and UN figures show that fewer than 100,000 people may have remained in the far western side of the city, which had been sheltering more than half of Gaza’s 2.3 million people before the Israeli assault began in early May.

WATCH: UK Labour Party leader refuses to accept genocide is happening in Gaza

The Israeli military accused Hamas of using Palestinian civilians as human shields, an allegation Hamas denies.

“The soldiers located inside a civilian residence large quantities of weapons hidden in wardrobes, including grenades, explosives, a launcher and anti-tank missiles, ammunition and arms,” the military said in a statement late on Thursday.

Hamas’s armed wing said, on Thursday, its fighters had hit two Israeli tanks with anti-tank rockets in the Shaboura camp in Rafah, and killed soldiers who tried to flee through the alleys. There was no immediate Israeli comment on the Hamas claim.

In nearby Khan Yunis, an Israeli air strike on Friday killed three people, including a father and son, medics said.

In parallel, Israeli forces continued a new push back into some Gaza City suburbs in the north of the enclave, where they fought with Hamas fighters. Residents said army forces had destroyed many homes in the heart of Gaza City on Thursday.

Later, on Friday, an Israeli air strike on a Gaza City municipal facility killed five people, including four municipal workers, the Territory’s Civil Emergency Service said. It added that rescue teams were searching the rubble for more missing victims.

In the nearby Beach camp, an Israeli air strike on a house killed at least seven people, medics said.

Israel’s ground and air campaign was triggered when Hamas fighters stormed into southern Israel on 7 October,  killing around 1,200 people and seizing more than 250 hostages, 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.

The offensive has left Gaza in ruins, killed more than 37,400 people, according to Palestinian health authorities, and left nearly the entire population homeless and destitute.

READ: Israel army spokesman says destroying Hamas is like throwing ashes in the public’s eyes