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Israeli tanks advance into areas in north and south Gaza

Published 06/30/2024, 05:07 AM
Updated 06/30/2024, 01:06 PM
© Reuters. An Israeli tank manoeuvres near the Israel-Gaza border, amid the Israel-Hamas conflict, in Israel, June 27, 2024. REUTERS/Amir Cohen/File Photo

By Nidal al-Mughrabi and Kamel Hamdan

CAIRO/GAZA (Reuters) -Israeli forces advanced further on Sunday into the Shejaia neighbourhood of northern Gaza and also pushed deeper into western and central Rafah in the south, killing at least six Palestinians and destroying several homes, residents said.

Israeli tanks, which moved back into Shejaia four days ago, fired shells towards several houses, leaving families trapped inside and unable to leave, the residents said.

Speaking at a weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeated his stance that there is no substitute for victory in the war against the Islamist militant group Hamas.

"We are committed to fighting until we achieve all of our objectives: Eliminating Hamas, returning all of our hostages, ensuring that Gaza never again constitutes a threat to Israel and returning our residents securely to their homes in the south and the north," he said.

While the offensive focused on Gaza, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, one man was killed and five were wounded in an Israeli strike near the city of Tulkarm, according to the Palestinian health ministry. The dead man was a member of militant group Islamic Jihad, the group said. The Israeli military issued no comment.

Hours after Netanyahu's comments about Gaza, the armed wing of Hamas released a video purporting to show weapons-making, in a show of defiance.

The video, which was not immediately verified by Reuters, showed fighters preparing anti-tank rocket warheads. In the background a large TV screen showed recent news events to indicate the video was recent.

"Our preparation is continuing," said writing at the end of the short film.

The Israeli military said forces operating in Shejaia had killed several Palestinian gunmen over the past day and found military infrastructure inside a United Nations school as well as dozens of weapons and "valuable intelligence documents".

On Saturday the military announced the death of two Israeli soldiers in northern Gaza.

In another raid in Shejaia, the forces located a "terrorist war room" at a clinic, said the military, which again accused Hamas of "embedding itself in civilian structures for terror purposes".

Hamas denies using civilian sites such as schools and hospitals for military purposes.

The armed wing of Hamas and the allied Islamic Jihad reported fierce fighting in both Shejaia and Rafah, saying their fighters had fired anti-tank rockets and mortar bombs against Israeli forces operating there.

More than eight months into Israel's air and ground war in Gaza, militants continue to stage attacks on Israeli forces, operating in areas that the Israeli army said it had gained control over months ago.

STALLED CEASEFIRE EFFORTS

Arab mediators' efforts, backed by the United States, have stalled. Hamas says any deal must end the war and bring a full Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. Israel says it will accept only temporary pauses in the fighting until Hamas, which has governed Gaza since 2007, is eradicated.

The war began 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.

Israel's retaliatory offensive has so far killed nearly 38,000 people, according to the Gaza health ministry, and has left the heavily built-up coastal enclave in ruins.

The ministry does not distinguish between combatants and non-combatants but officials say most of the dead are civilians. More than 300 Israeli soldiers have been killed in Gaza and Israel says at least a third of the Palestinian dead are fighters.

Israeli tanks pushed deeper into several districts in the east, west and centre of Rafah, near the border with Egypt, on Sunday, and medics said six people had been killed in an Israeli strike on a house in Shaboura, in the heart of the city.

The six bodies from the Zurub family were transferred to Nasser Hospital in the nearby city of Khan Younis, where dozens of relatives paid their respects.

© Reuters. Near the Israel-Gaza border, June 27, 2024. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

Residents said the Israeli army had torched the Al-Awda mosque in the centre of Rafah, one of the city's best-known.

Israel has said its military operations in Rafah are aimed at eradicating the last armed battalions of Hamas.

(Reporting and writing by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Cairo. Additional reporting by Ari Rabinovitch in JerusalemEditing by Gareth Jones, Frances Kerry, Philippa Fletcher)

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