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Israeli airstrike on Rafah kills 12 Palestinians

Palestinians have fled from the southern Gaza city of Rafah during an Israeli offensive.

Palestinians have fled from the southern Gaza city of Rafah during an Israeli offensive. Photo: Getty

Israeli forces have killed at least 12 Palestinians in a dawn airstrike on Rafah in southern Gaza and fighting raged in several other areas of the coastal enclave, Gaza medics say.

Israel pressed on with its offensive on Thursday on Rafah a day after saying its forces had taken control of a buffer zone along the nearby border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, giving it effective authority over Gaza’s entire land frontier.

It said the buffer zone’s capture had cut off a route used by the Palestinian Islamist militant group Hamas to smuggle arms into Gaza during more than seven months of war, which has laid waste to much of the territory and raised fears of famine.

Gaza medical sources said the 12 Palestinians, whom it said were civilians, had been killed and an unspecified number of others wounded in an Israeli airstrike as they tried to recover the body of a civilian in the centre of Rafah.

Another Palestinian civilian was killed in an airstrike on Al-Shati refugee camp west of Gaza City in the north of the densely populated enclave, the medics said.

Israel reported clashes in southern, central and northern Gaza but did not immediately comment on the reported deaths in Rafah, where hundreds of thousands of displaced Palestinians took refuge earlier in the war.

Communication services were cut off in Rafah, Palestinian telecommunications company Jawa said in a statement.

Israel has kept up raids on Rafah despite an order by the International Court of Justice, the top UN court, to halt the attacks.

Israel said its forces had killed 300 Palestinian gunmen in the city since May 6, when it launched what it has called a push to root out Hamas fighters and rescue hostages. The ICJ also called for the release of hostages held in Gaza by Hamas.

More than 36,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s air and land war across all of Gaza, with 53 of those killed in the past 24 hours, the Hamas-run enclave’s health ministry said.

Israel launched its offensive after Hamas fighters crossed from Gaza into southern Israel on October 7 last year, killed 1200 people and abducted more than 250, according to Israeli tallies.

The Israeli military said a soldier had been killed in fighting in northern Gaza, bringing to 292 Israel’s combat losses since its first Gaza ground incursion on October 20.

The United States, Israel’s closest ally, reiterated its opposition to a major ground offensive in Rafah on Tuesday but said it did not believe such an operation was under way.

The US has, with Egypt and Qatar, been involved in efforts to mediate indirect talks between Israel and Hamas on arranging a ceasefire and the release of the remaining hostages. Those talks have stalled, with both sides blaming the other for the lack of progress.

Hamas said on Thursday they would not continue negotiations during the “aggression”, but were ready for a “complete agreement” if Israel halts the war. Israel has rejected past Hamas offers as insufficient and said it is determined to wipe out a group bent on its destruction.

As the war drags on, malnutrition has become widespread in Gaza as aid deliveries have slowed to a trickle, and the United Nations has warned of incipient famine.

The conflict has also stoked violence in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, another territory where Palestinians seek statehood.

Israel said two soldiers were killed in an overnight hit-and-run by a Palestinian motorist in the West Bank city of Nablus. There was no immediate claim of responsibility from Palestinian factions.

Israeli security forces killed a Palestinian while carrying out an arrest raid in the occupied West Bank on Thursday.

On another front, the leader of Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthis – who have attacking ships in the Red Sea region, they say in solidarity with the Palestinians – said they would escalate their operations “in quality and quantity”.

– AAP

Topics: Rafah
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