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17 killed in two refugee camps as Israeli forces deepen Rafah invasion in Gaza

Israeli tanks have pushed deeper into several neighbourhoods in Rafah, as well as the ear bordering Egypt and the Rafah border crossing. This came as Israeli PM Netanyahu dissolved his War Cabinet tasked with overseeing the operations after the departure of his rival Benny Gantz.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Gaza Published on: June 18, 2024 21:59 IST
Israeli soldiers on a tank near the Israel-Gaza border
Image Source : REUTERS Israeli soldiers on a tank near the Israel-Gaza border

Gaza: Israeli airstrikes on Tuesday killed at least 17 Palestinians in two of Gaza's historic refugee camps as Israeli tanks pushed deeper in the southern city of Rafah, according to residents and medics. This comes as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday dissolved the War Cabinet tasked with overseeing the military operations, which is believed to diminish the chances of a ceasefire happening anytime soon.

Residents reported heavy bombardments from tanks and planes in several areas of Rafah, where more than a million people had taken refuge before May. Most of the population has fled northwards since then as Israeli forces invaded the city. "Rafah is being bombed without any intervention from the world, the occupation (Israel) is acting freely here," a Rafah resident said.

Meanwhile, Israeli tanks were operating inside Tel Al-Sultan, Al-Izba, and Zurub areas in Rafah's west, as well as Shaboura at the heart of the city. They have also carried on with their operations to occupy the eastern neighbourhoods along with the border with Egypt and the vital Rafah border crossing, amid rising international pressure.

Israel's 'precise, intelligence-based activity' in Rafah

Palestinian medics in the beleaguered enclave claimed that many people had been killed by Israeli fire in the past few days and weeks but rescue teams could not reach them. The Israeli military said it was continuing "precise, intelligence-based activity" in Rafah, killing many Palestinian gunmen over the past day in close-range combat and seized weapons.

As many as 17 Palestinians were killed in separate airstrikes on two central camps of Al-Nuseirat and Al-Bureij, which are home to families and descendants of people who fled to Gaza in the 1948 war around the creation of Israel. The Israeli military statement did not comment directly on the 17 deaths but said forces continued to operate against militant factions in central Gaza areas.

The commander of an Islamic Jihad sniper cell was killed by an Israeli warplane, and troops also "eliminated" a militant cell, it said. Additionally, Hamas and Islamic Jihad fighters clashed with Israeli forces in combat zones with anti-tank rockets and mortar bombs, detonating pre-planted explosive devices against army units in some places.

Israel's ground and air campaign was triggered when Hamas-led militants stormed into southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and seizing more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies. The Israeli operation has killed more than 37,400 people, according to health authorities.

Ceasefire negotiations

For months, negotiators from the US, Egypt and Qatar have been trying to mediate a ceasefire. Hamas says it wants a permanent end to the war in the Gaza Strip and Israeli withdrawal from the enclave of 2.3 million people. The UN Security Council recently passed a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire and unconditional release of all hostages held by Hamas, but the war continues unabated.

Netanyahu’s critics accuse him of delaying because an end to the war would mean an investigation into the government’s failures on October 7 and raise the likelihood of new elections when the prime minister’s popularity is low. Israeli politics was rocked at a sensitive time by the departure of opposition lawmaker Benny Gantz, as he was quite popular and is credited for boosting Israel's credibility with its international partners at a time when Israel was getting increasingly isolated.

Meanwhile, Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem are suffering a drastically worsening human rights environment, alongside "unconscionable death and suffering" in the Gaza Strip, UN human rights chief Volker Turk said on Tuesday. The West Bank, where the internationally recognised Palestinian Authority exercises limited self-rule under Israeli occupation, has seen the worst unrest for decades in parallel with the war in Gaza.

(with inputs from Reuters)

ALSO READ | Israel-Hamas conflict: How Netanyahu's decision to dissolve War Cabinet will impact ceasefire efforts?

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