Thursday, 23 May 2024
SportsHamas takes advantage of power vacuum to regroup as Israel advances in...

Hamas takes advantage of power vacuum to regroup as Israel advances in Rafah

RAFAH, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israeli forces were fighting Palestinian militants in several areas of the Gaza Strip on Sunday, including parts of the devastated north that the army said it cleared months ago, and where Hamas has taken advantage of a power vacuum. to regroup.

Israel has described the southern city of Rafah as Hamas’ last stronghold and says it must invade it to succeed in its goals of dismantling the group and recovering dozens of hostages. The limited operation in the city has expanded in recent days, forcing 300,000 people to flee.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated US opposition to a broad attack on Rafah, telling CBS that Israel would “be left with the responsibility of quelling an insurgency” without having a solution for Gaza or plans for a post-war government.

Egypt’s Foreign Ministry said it will join South Africa’s complaint to the International Court of Justice accusing Israel of genocide, something Israel vehemently rejects. In its statement, the ministry cited “the increasing severity and magnitude of Israeli attacks against Palestinian civilians.”

U.N. human rights commissioner Volker Turk said “an all-out offensive against Rafah cannot happen.” He added that he does not conceive how such an offensive could respect international law.

Meanwhile, the rest of Gaza seemed to offer Hamas ample opportunities. Israel has not yet presented a detailed postwar governance plan and has only said it will maintain indefinite security control over the coastal enclave, where some 2.3 million Palestinians live.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected proposed post-war plans by the United States for the Palestinian Authority, which administers parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, to govern Gaza with support from Arab and Muslim countries. Those plans depend on progress toward creating a Palestinian state, something Netanyahu’s government staunchly opposes.

While the two close allies remain divided, Gaza has been left without a functional government, breaking down public order and allowing Hamas to regroup even in the worst-affected areas.

Palestinians reported intense Israeli shelling overnight in the urban refugee camp of Jabaliya and other areas of the northern Gaza Strip, which has suffered widespread destruction and has been virtually isolated by Israeli forces for months. United Nations officials say the area is suffering from “full famine.”

Residents in the area said Israeli artillery and aircraft had hit the countryside and the Zeitoun area, east of Gaza City, where troops have been fighting Palestinian militants for a week. The army has told tens of thousands of people to leave for nearby areas.

“It was a very difficult night,” said Abdel-Kareem Radwan, a 48-year-old Palestinian from Jabaliya. Intense and constant explosions had been heard since midday on Saturday, he said. “This is crazy”.

Emergency workers from the Palestinian Civil Defense said they had been unable to respond to multiple requests for help from the two areas and from Rafah, in the southern tip of the territory. Israeli troops have been fighting militants in the city since the army seized the nearby border crossing with Egypt last week.

Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, the Israeli army’s top spokesman, said troops were fighting in all areas of Gaza, “in areas where we have not yet operated and in places where we have.”

In addition to Jabaliya and Zeitoun, he said, troops were operating in Beit Lahiya and Beit Hanoun, towns near Gaza’s northern border with Israel, which suffered intense bombing in the first days of the war.

The army “is now going to Jabaliya for the second time and Zeitoun for the third time, and will continue to come and go,” wrote columnist Ben Caspit in the Israeli newspaper Maariv, expressing the growing frustration felt by many Israelis after more than seven months of war. .

“The Hamas regime cannot be overthrown without preparing an alternative to that regime,” he wrote, citing the American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as examples. “The only people who can govern Gaza after the war are Gazans, with a lot of support and help from outside.”

Five Israeli soldiers were killed in Zeitoun on Friday and Palestinian militants fired a round of 14 rockets toward the Israeli city of Beersheba that night. Another rocket fired overnight damaged a house in the Israeli city of Ashkelon, the army said Sunday.

The United Nations Palestinian refugee agency, the main aid provider in Gaza, said 300,000 people have fled Rafah since the operation there began. Most were heading to the nearby battered city of Khan Yunis and to Mawasi, a crowded tent camp on the coast where some 450,000 people already live in precarious conditions.

Rafah was home to 1.3 million Palestinians before the Israeli offensive, most of whom had arrived fleeing from other parts of the territory.

Israel has now evacuated the eastern third of Rafah, and Hagari said dozens of militants had been killed there as “targeted operations continued.” The United Nations has warned that a full-scale invasion of Rafah would further undermine humanitarian operations and trigger civilian deaths.

Rafah is on the border with Egypt, close to the main aid entry points, which have already been affected. Israeli troops have captured the Gaza side of the Rafah crossing, forcing its closure. Egypt has refused to coordinate with Israel on the delivery of aid through the crossing due to the “unacceptable Israeli escalation,” according to state television Al Qahera, which cited an unnamed official.

US President Joe Biden said he would not provide offensive weapons to Israel for use in Rafah. His government said Friday that there was “reasonable” evidence that Israel had violated international law protections for civilians, Washington’s strongest statement on the issue yet.

Israel rejects those accusations, saying it tries to avoid harm to civilians and blaming Hamas for the high death toll because it fights in densely populated areas.

The war began when Hamas and other militants attacked southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking 250 hostage. They still hold about 100 people and the remains of more than 30.

The Israeli offensive by land, sea and air has killed more than 34,800 Palestinians, mostly women and children, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between civilians and combatants in its figures. Israel said it had killed more than 13,000 militants, without providing evidence.

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