Israeli forces push deeper into Rafah as truce efforts falter

Locals say the IDF moved toward Rafah's Al-Mawasi area, a designated humanitarian zone by the Israeli army since May

Reuters June 13, 2024
Smoke rises following Israeli strikes during an Israeli military operation, in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, June 3, 2024. PHOTO: REUTERS


Israeli tanks advanced deeper into the western area of Rafah, amid one of the worst nights of bombardment from air, ground, and sea, forcing many families to flee their homes and tents under darkness, residents said on Thursday.

Residents said the Israeli forces thrust towards the Al-Mawasi area of Rafah near the beach, which is designated as a humanitarian area in all announcements and maps published by the Israeli army since it began its Rafah offensive in May.

The Israeli military denied in a statement it had launched any strikes inside the Al-Mawasi humanitarian zone.

Israel said its assault aimed to wipe out Hamas' last intact combat units in Rafah, a city which had sheltered more than a million people before the latest advance began. Most of those people have now moved north towards Khan Younis and Deir Al-Balah in central Gaza Strip.

Read also: Gaza truce deal eludes Israel, Hamas

The Israeli military said in a statement it was continuing "intelligence-based, targeted operations" on Rafah, saying forces in the past day had located weapons and killed Palestinian gunmen in close-range combat.

Over the past day, the military said it had struck 45 targets across the Gaza Strip from the air, including military structures, resistance cells, rocket launchers and tunnel shafts.

Israel has ruled out peace until Hamas is eradicated, and much of Gaza lies in ruins. But Hamas has proven resilient, with fighters resurfacing to fight in areas where Israeli forces had previously declared to have defeated them and pulled back.

Ceasefire proposal

The group welcomed a new US ceasefire proposal but made some amendments, reaffirming its stance that any agreement must secure an end to the war, a demand Israel still rejects.

Israel described Hamas's response to the new US peace proposal as total rejection. But the efforts to secure an agreement are still continuing, according to mediators Qatar and Egypt, backed by the United States.

Since a brief week-long truce in November, repeated attempts to arrange a ceasefire have failed, with Hamas insisting on a permanent end to the war and full Israeli withdrawal from Gaza.

Hamas precipitated the war when fighters stormed from Israeli-blockaded Gaza into southern Israel in a lightning strike last Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and taking over 250 hostages back to the enclave, according to Israeli tallies.

Israel's invasion and bombardment of Gaza since then has killed at least 37,000 people, according to the territory's health ministry. Thousands more are feared buried dead under rubble, with most of the 2.3 million population displaced.


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