Israeli forces advance deeper into Gaza’s Rafah as ceasefire deal stalls

Since a brief week-long truce in November, repeated attempts to arrange a ceasefire have failed

Nidal al Mughrabi
Thursday 13 June 2024 17:26 BST
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An Israeli army tank rolls along a position in an area of Israel's southern border
An Israeli army tank rolls along a position in an area of Israel's southern border (AFP via Getty Images)

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Israeli tanks advanced deeper into the western area of the border city of Rafah in Gaza, 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 have said.

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.

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, militant cells, rocket launchers and tunnel shafts.

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

Hamas 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 triggered the war when it stormed from Israeli-blockaded Gaza into southern Israel in attack on 7 October last year, killing around 1,200 people and taking 250 hostages back to the enclave..

Israel's invasion and bombardment of Gaza that followed 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.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah said it had launched rockets and weaponised drones at nine Israeli military sites in a coordinated attack on Thursday, ramping up hostilities on Lebanon's southern border for the second consecutive day.

The attacks were carried out in retaliation for an Israeli strike on Tuesday that killed a senior Hezbollah field commander. A security source told Lebanon it was the largest attack waged by Hezbollah since October, when the group started exchanging fire with Israel in parallel with the Gaza war.

Hezbollah said in a statement it had fired volleys of Katyusha and Falaq rockets at six Israeli military locations. The statement said it had also launched attack drones at the headquarters of Israel's northern command, an intelligence headquarters and a military barracks.

A security source told Reuters that involved firing at least 30 attack drones at once, making it the group's largest drone attack to date in the eight-month-old war. The Iran-backed Hezbollah and Israel have been trading near-daily fire since the eruption of the Gaza war, but the last two days have seen a sharp rise following the Israeli strike that killed the Hezbollah commander.

Reuters

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