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Dhaka Tribune

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

  • Israeli strikes kill 38 Palestinians, health officials say
  • Israeli military battling Hamas in close combat in Rafah
  • Israel says Rafah operation is targeted and precise
  • Aid agency says many civilians still stuck in the city
Update : 23 May 2024, 10:05 PM

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-led fighters in areas of the southern city of Rafah, health officials and Hamas media said.

Israeli tanks advanced in Rafah's southeast, edged towards the city's western district of Yibna and continued to operate in three eastern suburbs, residents said.

"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.

"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.

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.

Since October 7, Israel's assault in Gaza has killed more than 35,800 people, with thousands more feared buried under the rubble, according to Gaza health authorities.

Israel says it has no choice but to attack Rafah to root out the last battalions of Hamas fighters it believes are sheltering there.

"Hamas is in Rafah, Hamas has been holding our hostages in Rafah, which is why our forces are maneuvering in Rafah. We're doing this in a targeted and precise way," Israeli chief military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said in a statement.

UNRWA, the main United Nations agency in Gaza, estimated as of Monday that more than 800,000 people had fled 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. Israel says it has had to return to prevent Hamas from regrouping there.

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