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Israeli tanks have reached the center of Rafah, AFP reports say

Omar Tamo, Bloomberg News on

Published in News & Features

Israeli tanks have reached the center of Rafah in southern Gaza, AFP reported, citing witnesses.

Residents said there were clashes between Israel and Hamas’s forces in the middle of the city, AFP said.

The move comes around three weeks after Israel started urging Palestinian civilians to leave Rafah and began pushing troops to its outskirts.

The United Nations says roughly one million civilians have fled Rafah, with Israeli forces urging them to move to tented camps elsewhere in the Gaza Strip. The city’s population had swelled to about 1.4 million by last month as it was one of the few safe zones in Gaza.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has for months said Israel’s troops would move into Rafah because it’s the last major bastion of Hamas, with about 8,000 of its fighters and leaders located there, as well as many of the hostages the Islamist group took hostage in October.

The U.S. and other countries, fearing mass casualties among Palestinian civilians, and have urged Israel to cancel or sharply curtail plans for the assault.

 

The war has inflamed the region and led to widespread condemnation of Israel. Those tensions have worsened since Sunday with an Israeli airstrike on a camp on the outskirts of the city of Rafah killing an estimated 45 Palestinians. On Monday, an Egyptian soldier was killed in a clash with Israeli troops.

Another Israeli strike on Tuesday on Rafah killed at least 16 Palestinians, the Associated Press reported.

The conflict began when Hamas fighters stormed into Israel from Gaza on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and abducting 250. Israel’s counterattack has killed some 35,000 Gazans, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

The U.S. and European Union have designated Hamas a terrorist organization.


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