Fierce fighting in Gaza as Israeli forces attack Hamas militants | Gaza

On Sunday there was heavy fighting in large parts of the devastated north of Gaza. Heavy bombing and airstrikes were reported as Israeli troops attacked Hamas militants in areas where there has been repeated fighting.

The new clashes underscore the failure of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to secure much of the territory, analysts said, after a campaign that caused massive destruction, the displacement of about 2 million people and the deaths of about 35,000 people, mostly women and children , brought with it.

Clashes were also reported in southern Gaza, where tens of thousands fled the city of Rafah on Sunday after the IDF bombed and warned to clear central and eastern districts ahead of planned offensives.

The relief workers there assume that the total number of people who have now left the city is around 350,000.

“The streets that were previously full of people living in makeshift tents have largely been dismantled and people have fled.” The area around the United Nations building (in the city center) is unrecognizable… all the people who sought refuge there, fled,” said Dr. James Smith, a British medic currently in Rafah.

In the north, Israeli military officials said forces were deployed in Jabaliya and Zeitoun camps, east of Gaza City, and in the territory’s far north in Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahiya.

Hamas, which seized power in Gaza in 2007, has been able to reassert its authority in many areas of the territory in recent months by controlling markets, running Islamic courts and intimidating opponents. Militants used remaining tunnels to ambush Israeli forces and continued to fire rockets into Israel.

“We have noted attempts by Hamas to restore its military capabilities in Jabaliya in recent weeks. We are operating there to prevent these attempts,” R Adm Daniel Hagari, Israel’s military spokesman, told reporters. A previous Israeli attempt to prevent Hamas from reestablishing its troops in Zeitoun took place in March.

Witnesses reported almost continuous air raids and artillery fire.

“The bombing from the air and from the ground has not stopped since yesterday, they bombed everywhere, including near schools where people who have lost their homes are accommodated. The war is starting again, that’s what it looks like,” Saed, 45, a resident of Jabaliya, said on a chat app.

Abdel-Kareem Radwan, a 48-year-old Palestinian in Jabaliya, described the intense and constant bombing since midday on Saturday as “madness.”

Thousands sought rare and expensive transportation away from the fighting, which saw chaotic scenes in crowded streets.

Hagari also said that Israeli forces operating in Zeitoun killed about 30 Palestinian militants. There was no immediate independent confirmation of the claim, nor were there reports from local health authorities of numerous civilian casualties.

For economic, domestic and diplomatic reasons, Israel has withdrawn most of its troops from Gaza, but has stationed a powerful force along a new road its forces have built that bisects the area south of Gaza City.

Israeli media is increasingly criticizing Benjamin Netanyahu for failing to present a workable proposal for a new government in Gaza. This left an anarchic security vacuum that helped Hamas regain its control over parts of the territory and its population, they said.

Yedioth Ahronoth, a mainstream newspaper, reported Sunday that Israeli military officials had asked the prime minister to make a decision about the “day after” in Gaza.

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Ben Caspit, a columnist, said Israel “will continue to pay the price in blood, sweat and a whole lot of tears so we can get nowhere…” Because the Hamas regime cannot be overthrown without preparing an alternative to this regime.” So far, more than 270 Israeli soldiers have died in the offensive.

A Palestinian woman and children who fled Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip ride with their belongings in the back of a truck as they seek shelter in Deir el-Balah in the central part of the Palestinian territory. Photo: Said Khatib/AFP/Getty Images

There are also some concerns about the diplomatic price paid by Israel, although Netanyahu’s recent promise that the country would “stand alone” if necessary resonated with many Jewish Israelis and support for the war remains strong.

Israel’s Rafah offensive has also drawn warnings from Egypt, where officials said it jeopardized the country’s decades-old peace treaty with Israel. On Sunday evening, Cairo said it intended to formally join South Africa’s lawsuit against Israel at the International Court of Justice.

The war began when Hamas attacked southern Israel on October 7, killing about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking another 250 hostage. They are still holding about 100 prisoners and the remains of more than 30, and internationally brokered talks on a ceasefire and the release of hostages appear to have stalled.

Netanyahu said Rafah was Hamas’ last stronghold and that Israel could only achieve war goals – defined as the destruction of the militant Islamist organization – by killing militants and leaders in the city and ensuring there was no further threat to Israel from Gaza and the return of hostages.

Israel’s advance into Rafah has sparked global outrage and strained relations with the United States, its strongest ally.

Volker Türk, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, said on Sunday that a full-scale Israeli attack on Rafah “cannot take place,” stressing that it was inconsistent with international law.

“The latest evacuation orders affect almost a million people in Rafah. So where should they go now? There is no safe place in Gaza! These exhausted, starving people, many of whom have been displaced many times, have no good options.”

Israel has told those fleeing new fighting in the north and in Rafah to head to a designated “humanitarian zone” along a stretch of coast. But the area is already teeming with large numbers of displaced people, and water, sanitation, health facilities and food are in limited supply.