Israel sends tanks into Rafah on raids, defying World Court order amid Gaza-wide offensive – The Hindu

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Israeli tanks mounted raids across Rafah in defiance of the World Court for a second day on May 29, after Washington said the assault did not amount to a major ground operation in the southern Gazan city that U.S. officials have warned Israel to avoid.

Israel sent its tanks into the heart of Rafah for the first time on Tuesday, despite an order from the International Court of Justice to end its attacks on the city, where many Palestinians had taken refuge from widespread bombardment.

Editorial | Punishing Hamas: On Israel and the ICJ ruling

The United States, Israel’s closest ally, reiterated its opposition to a major Israeli ground offensive in Rafah but said on Tuesday it did not believe such an operation was under way.

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Rafah residents said on Wednesday that Israeli tanks had pushed into Tel Al-Sultan in western Rafah and Yibna and near Shaboura in the centre before retreating towards a buffer zone on the border with Egypt, in contrast with offensives elsewhere.

Israel’s military controlled three quarters of the buffer zone and aimed to control all of it to prevent Hamas smuggling in weapons, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s National Security Advisor Tzachi Hanegbi said.

Smoke rises following Israeli strikes during an Israeli military operation in Rafah, as seen from Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on May 28, 2024.
| Photo Credit:
REUTERS

He expected fighting in Gaza to continue throughout 2024 at least, he said, signalling Israel was not ready to heed international calls to agree a ceasefire with the Hamas militants who run Gaza and exchange the hostages they hold for Palestinian prisoners.

The armed wings of Hamas and its allies Islamic Jihad said they confronted the invading forces with anti-tank rockets and mortar bombs and blew up previously planted explosive devices.

Also read | The ICJ ruling on Israel’s Rafah offensive and its implications | Explained

The Israeli military said three soldiers were killed and three others badly wounded in combat in southern Gaza, without elaborating. Israel’s public broadcaster Kan radio said they were hurt by an explosive device set off in a building in Rafah.

Palestinian health officials said several people were wounded by Israeli fire in eastern Rafah and stores of aid were set ablaze. Residents said constant Israeli bombardment overnight destroyed many homes in the area, from where most people have fled after orders by Israel to evacuate.

Some residents reported seeing what they described as unmanned robotic armoured vehicles opening fire from machine guns in some parts of the city.

A man looks on as Palestinians inspect a tent camp damaged in an Israeli strike during an Israeli military operation, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on May 28, 2024.

A man looks on as Palestinians inspect a tent camp damaged in an Israeli strike during an Israeli military operation, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on May 28, 2024.
| Photo Credit:
REUTERS

Internet and mobile signals went down in parts of both east and west amid heavy Israeli air and ground bombardment, the pro-Hamas Shehab news agency, residents and other journalists said. The Israeli military said it could not confirm the reports.

In northern Gaza, tanks shelled several Gaza City neighbourhoods, and forces thrust deeper into Jabalia, the largest of the enclave’s eight biggest historic refugee camps, where residents said large residential districts were destroyed.

Healthcare needed immediately in Rafah and North Gaza, Palestinian Health Ministry says

Gaza’s Health Ministry said several hospitals in areas where the army is operating had stopped functioning. Spokesperson Ashraf Al-Qidra called for immediate safe pathways for fuel, medical aid and medical teams to Rafah and northern Gaza.

“The Israeli occupation deliberately finished off the healthcare presence in Rafah and the north,” Qidra’s statement said adding that there was no help for people wounded there.

Around a million Palestinians who had taken shelter in Rafah at the southern end of the Gaza Strip from Israel’s offensives elsewhere have now fled after Israeli orders to evacuate, the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA reported on Tuesday.

A child rests on the day Palestinians travel on foot along with their belongings, as they flee Rafah due to an Israeli military operation, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on May 28, 2024.

A child rests on the day Palestinians travel on foot along with their belongings, as they flee Rafah due to an Israeli military operation, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on May 28, 2024.
| Photo Credit:
REUTERS

The Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) said it had evacuated its medical teams from its field hospital in the Al-Mawasi area, a designated civilian evacuation zone, citing “continued artillery and air bombardments” in the vicinity.

The World Court said in its ruling on Friday that Israel had not explained how it would keep the Rafah evacuees safe and provide food, water and medicine. Israel said the order allowed room for some military action to root out Hamas fighters there.

In the nearby city of Khan Younis, an Israeli air strike killed three people overnight, including Salama Baraka, a former senior Hamas police officer, medics and Hamas media said.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said one of its staff, Issam Aqel, was killed in an Israeli air strike on his house in the Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza, taking to 30 the number of staff killed since Oct 7, at least 17 of them killed on duty.

Israel delivered its latest ceasefire and hostage release proposal to Qatar, and Qatar was to provide it to Hamas on Tuesday, a person familiar with the issue said. There was no immediate word on Wednesday from Hamas, which has said talks are pointless unless Israel ends its offensive on Rafah.

More than 36,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s war on Gaza , the enclave’s health ministry said.

Israel launched its air and ground war after Hamas-led militants attacked southern Israeli communities on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and seizing more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

Malnutrition is widespread in Gaza as aid deliveries have slowed to a trickle, with international aid agencies accusing Israel of blocking their distribution attempts and Israel blaming the agencies.

In a further blow to aid efforts, part of a new aid pier put in place by the U.S. military off Gaza’s coast broke off, probably due to bad weather, putting it out of operation temporarily, two U.S. officials said on Tuesday.

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