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Israeli forces advance in Rafah

West Jerusalem’s troops have pushed toward the heart of the city along Gaza’s border with Egypt

Israel’s military has pushed deeper into Rafah, stepping up its ground offensive in Gaza’s southern-most city despite an international outcry over heavy civilian casualties in the Palestinian enclave.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said on Thursday that troops were operating in the Brazil and Shaboura neighborhoods of Rafah, which are located about halfway between the Israeli border and the Mediterranean coast. Civilians have evacuated the area, according to an IDF statement.

The advance came two days after a senior US government official told reporters that Israeli leaders had agreed to scale back their Rafah offensive to allay humanitarian concerns raised by President Joe Biden’s administration. The controversial IDF operation in Rafah, where more than 1 million Palestinian civilians had taken refuge after their neighborhoods in other parts off Gaza were leveled by Israeli bombardments, began earlier this month.

“It’s fair to say, I think, the Israelis have updated their plans,” the US official said. “They’ve incorporated many of the concerns that we have expressed.” He added that Israel’s government agreed to limit the operation to targeted strikes against Hamas fighters, rather than carrying out large-scale attacks that could escalate the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

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Israel scales back Rafah offensive – media

Israeli airstrikes and ground operations killed at least 50 Palestinians across the Gaza Strip on Thursday, Reuters reported, citing local officials and Hamas media. IDF tanks advanced in southeastern Rafah, toward Yibna district, and in three eastern suburbs, residents told the media outlet.

“They are on the edge of Yibna, which is densely populated,” one resident said. “They didn’t invade it yet. We hear explosions and we see black smoke coming up from the areas where the army has invaded. It was another very difficult night.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to carry out plans to eliminate the Hamas battalions holed up in Rafah, which is located on Gaza’s border with Egypt. He has claimed that West Jerusalem cannot achieve its war objectives without destroying what he calls the last Hamas stronghold.

More than 35,000 people have been killed in Gaza since the war began in October, according to Palestinian health authorities. The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor called this week for the arrests of Netanyahu and Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant for alleged war crimes.


READ MORE: Netanyahu claims more people starving to death in US than in Gaza

 

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