CAIRO: Israel began on Monday a ‘new push’ into central Gaza, bombarding towns in the north of the Strip and saying it ‘intended to broaden’ its military operation in Ra­fah despite US warnings of the risk of mass casualties in the southern city.

Gaza medics informed that at least 23 people had been killed in the latest round of fighting. Resi­dents said the battles in Jabalia in the north of the Palestinian enclave, were intense.

Aside from this, Israeli tanks carried out a limited incursion into the areas of ‘Wadi Al-Salqa’ and ‘Al-Karara’ near Deir Al-Balah (a central Gazan city), where Israeli forces have not entered during more than seven months of attack, local residents said.

As fighting raged on, the US National Security Adviser, Jake Sullivan, held talks in Israel. The White House had said he would call for Israeli forces to ‘go after Hamas’ in Gaza, in a ‘targeted way’ and not with a ‘full-scale assault on Rafah’.

Despite this, Israeli Defence Minister, Yoav Gallant, has signalled there will be ‘no let-up’ in its operation. “We are committed to broadening the ground operation in Rafah to the end of dismantling Hamas and recovering the hostages” a statement from Gallant’s office quoted him as telling Sullivan.

Israel portrays Rafah as Hamas’ ‘last stronghold’. Western powers are ‘concerned’ over the hundreds of thousands of displaced Palestinians sheltering there, despite Israeli assurances of humanitarian safeguards.

Israel told civilians to evacuate parts of the city on the 6 of May and began troop and tank incursions. The UN agency for Pales­tinian refugees, UNRWA has estimated that 810,000 people have fled since then possibly over half of Rafah’s population.Published in Dawn, May 21st, 2024

Published in Dawn, May 21st, 2024

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