Israel Pounds Gaza, killing Dozens

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Israeli forces pounded Rafah in southern Gaza on Friday, as well as other areas across the enclave, killing at least 45 Palestinians as troops engaged in close-quarter combat with Hamas militants, residents and Israel’s military said.

Residents said the Israelis appeared to be trying to complete their capture of Rafah, which borders Egypt and has been the focus of an Israeli assault since early May.

Tanks were forcing their way into the western and northern parts of the city, having already captured the east, south and centre.

Firing from planes, tanks and ships off the coast caused more people to flee the city, which a few months ago was sheltering more than a million displaced people, most of whom have now relocated again.

The Gaza health ministry said at least 25 Palestinians had been killed in Mawasi in western Rafah and 50 wounded. Palestinians said a tank shell hit a tent housing displaced families.

Two tanks climbed a hilltop overseeing Mawasi and they sent balls of fire that hit the tents of the poor people displaced in the area,” one resident told said over a chat app. Reports said

The Israeli military said that the incident was under review. “An initial inquiry conducted suggests that there is no indication that a strike was carried out by the IDF (Israel Defence Forces) in the Humanitarian Area in Al-Mawasi,” it said.

Earlier, the military said its forces were conducting “precise, intelligence-based” actions in the Rafah area, where troops were involved in close-quarter combat and had located tunnels used by militants.

Over the past week, the military said, troops targeted a university that served as a Hamas headquarters from which militants fired on soldiers and found weapons and barrel bombs. It did not name the university.

In the central Gaza area of Nusseirat, the military said soldiers killed dozens of militants over the past week and found a weapons depot containing mortar bombs and military equipment belonging to Hamas.

Some residents said the Israeli onslaught on Rafah had intensified in the previous two days and that the sounds of explosions and gunfire had hardly stopped.

Last night was one of the worst nights in western Rafah: Drones, planes, tanks, and naval boats bombarded the area. We feel the occupation is trying to complete the control of the city,” said Hatem, 45, reached by text message.

They are taking heavy strikes from the resistance fighters, which may be slowing them down.”

More than eight months into the war in Gaza, Israel’s advance is now focused on the two last areas its forces had yet to seize: Rafah on Gaza’s southern edge and the area surrounding Deir al-Balah in the centre.

 

 

Reuters/Shakirat Sadiq

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