Israel is pushing deeper into Rafah and fighting a regrouping Hamas in northern Gaza.

Rafah, Gaza Strip — Israeli forces pushed deeper into the southern Gaza city of Rafah on Sunday, battling Hamas in parts of the devastated north that the army said it had wiped out months ago. Where the militants have regrouped.

Rafah is considered the last refuge of more than a million civilians in Gaza and the last stronghold of Hamas. About 300,000 people have fled the city after evacuation orders from Israel, which it says are attacking it to eliminate Hamas and return scores of hostages taken in an Oct. 7 attack on Israel. Should have given birth to war.

Neighboring Egypt issued its strongest objection yet to the Rafah offensive, saying it plans to formally join South Africa's case at the International Court of Justice that accuses Israel of Genocide in Gaza, which Israel denies. The Foreign Ministry's statement cited the increasing intensity and scale of Israeli attacks against Palestinian civilians.

“There cannot be a full-scale attack on Rafah,” UN human rights chief Volker Turk said in a statement, adding that he could not see how it was compatible with international humanitarian law. can be done

US Secretary of State Anthony Blanken reiterated his opposition to a major military assault on Rafah, telling CBS that Israel “will be left holding the bag of an enduring insurgency” without a plan for Gaza withdrawal and post-war governance. .

Gaza has been left without a functioning government, disrupting public order and allowing Hamas' armed wing to reestablish itself in even the most affected areas. Israel has yet to present a detailed plan for post-war governance in Gaza, saying only that it would maintain open security control over the enclave of about 2.3 million Palestinians.

Internationally mediated talks on a ceasefire and the release of hostages appear to have stalled.

In his Memorial Day speech, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to continue fighting until victory in memory of those who died in the war.

Netanyahu has rejected US-proposed post-war plans for the Palestinian Authority, which administers parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, to rule Gaza with the support of Arab and Muslim countries. of the. Those plans depend on progress toward the creation of a Palestinian state, which Netanyahu's government opposes.

The October 7 attack killed nearly 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took another 250 hostage. The militants still have about 100 hostages and the remains of more than 30.

More than 35,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children, have been killed in Israeli air, ground and sea operations, according to Gaza's health ministry, which does not distinguish between civilians and combatants in its figures. Israel says it has killed more than 13,000 militants without providing evidence.

Heavy bombardment in the north

Palestinians reported heavy overnight Israeli bombardment of the Jabalia refugee camp and other areas in northern Gaza, which have been isolated by Israeli forces for months. UN officials say there is “absolute famine”.

Residents said Israeli warplanes and artillery struck the camp and the Zeitoun area east of Gaza City, where troops have been fighting militants for a week. He has appealed to tens of thousands of people to move to nearby areas.

“It was a very difficult night,” said Abdul Karim Rizwan, 48, from Jabaliya. He said he could hear heavy and continuous shelling since Saturday afternoon. “This is madness.”

Palestinian Civil Defense first responders said they were unable to respond to multiple calls for help from both areas as well as from Rafah.

Israel's top military spokesman, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, said troops were also operating in the northern towns of Beit Lahia and Beit Hanun, which were heavily bombed in the early days of the war.

“The Hamas government cannot be overthrown without creating an alternative to that government,” columnist Ben Kespit wrote in Israel's daily Mario, echoing the growing frustration of many Israelis during more than seven months of war. wrote “The only people who can rule Gaza after the war are the people of Gaza, who have a lot of support and help from outside.”

Civilians are fleeing in the south.

Israel has now evacuated the eastern third of Rafah, which was sheltering some 1.3 million Palestinians, most of whom fled fighting elsewhere. The United Nations has warned that a planned full-scale attack would further damage humanitarian operations and increase civilian casualties.

Key aid entry routes near Rafah are already affected. Israeli troops have seized the Rafah crossing from the Gaza side and forced it to close. Egypt has refused to liaise with Israel on aid deliveries despite the crossing due to “unacceptable Israeli escalation”, according to the state-owned Al-Qarah news channel.

A senior Egyptian official told The Associated Press that Cairo has lodged a protest with the governments of Israel, the United States and Europe, saying the attack violated its decades-old peace treaty with Israel, which is a cornerstone of regional stability. The foundation has been put in jeopardy. The official was not authorized to brief the media and spoke on condition of anonymity.

US President Joe Biden has said he will not provide Israel with offensive weapons for Rafah, and his administration says there is “substantial” evidence that Israel has violated international law to protect civilians. has been violated.

Israel has denied the allegations, saying it tries to avoid harming civilians. It blames Hamas for most of the casualties as militants fight in densely populated areas.

In the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where deadly violence has escalated since the war began, the Palestinian Health Ministry said one person was killed by Israeli forces in Nablus' Balata refugee camp. The army said its forces returned direct fire after militants fired at the camp.


Krause reported from Jerusalem and Magdi from Cairo. Associated Press writer Jack Jeffrey in Jerusalem contributed.


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