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Israel targets Hamas stronghold in north Gaza, pounds Rafah without advancing

Israel’s tanks pushed into the heart of Jabalia in northern Gaza on Thursday, facing anti-tank rockets and mortar bombs from militants concentrated there, while in the south, its forces pounded Rafah without advancing, Palestinian residents and militants said.

The slow progress of Israel’s offensive, more than seven months after it was prompted by Hamas’ deadly cross-border raid, highlighted the difficulty of achieving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s aim of eradicating the militant group.

Armed wings of Hamas and its ally Islamic Jihad have been able to fight up and down the Gaza Strip, using heavily fortified tunnels to stage attacks in both the north – the focus of Israel’s initial invasion – and new battlegrounds like Rafah.

Israel says four Hamas battalions are now in Rafah along with hostages abducted during the Oct. 7 assault, but faces pressure from the United States, Europe and the United Nations not to invade the city, where hundreds of thousands of displaced Palestinian civilians are sheltering.

“The operation in Rafah is still limited in space and in targets,” military spokesperson Lt. Col. Nadav Shoshani said on Thursday, adding that its attacks were based on specific intelligence about militant activity.

More than 35,000 Gazans have already been killed, according to health officials in the Hamas-run coastal enclave and malnutrition is widespread as international aid efforts are blocked by the violence.

Israel says it needs to wipe out Hamas for its own protection after the deaths of 1,200 people on Oct. 7, and to free the 128 hostages still held out of 253 abducted by the militants, according to its tallies.

The United States anchored a temporary floating pier to a beach in Gaza on Thursday to boost aid deliveries, but it was still unclear how it would be distributed given the challenges that have beset the United Nations and relief groups for months.


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Last Updated: 18th May 2024