2024-05-28 23:25:09

Israeli tanks seen advancing into Rafah despite in

Smoke rises following Israeli strikes during an Israeli military operation in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on Tuesday.

Israeli military tanks were seen in central Rafah on Tuesday for the first time since the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) entered Gaza’s southernmost city earlier this month, two eyewitnesses told CNN.

The move comes two days after an Israeli strike on a camp in Gaza’s southernmost cityand amid a push by the international community to stop its assault on the city.

Alaa Abu Ibrahim, a Rafah resident, told CNN that Israeli tanks were seen at the Al Awda roundabout in the center of the city.

Another resident, Salma AlKadoomi, said she saw armored vehicles in the downtown area near the Abu Hashem building.

“These vehicles advanced in the middle of the night,” AlKadoomi told CNN.

Asked about reports of tanks advancing in the city, IDF spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said at a media briefing on Tuesday that the military is operating in Rafah in a “targeted” and “precise” way.

“There are still Hamas battalions in Rafah. A couple of days ago launchers from Rafah fired (rockets) to Tel Aviv. Millions of people went into bomb shelters,” he said.

Israel began a limited ground operation in Rafah on May 7,– a 14-kilometer (about 8.7-mile) long buffer zone on the Egypt-Gaza border – and seizing the Palestinian side of the border with Egypt.

“Today and the day before we’ve again detected tunnels along the Philadelphi Corridor, those are tunnels going to Sinai,” Hagari said, adding that the IDF is demolishing the tunnels into Sinai, and communicating with the Egyptian government about it.

Egypt has strongly opposed the operation at its border. On Monday, an Egyptian security personnelwith Gaza in a shooting that involved Egyptian and Israeli soldiers. Egypt’s state-affiliated Al-Qahera News outlet said that “Palestinian resistance” fighters were also involved.

Somewere sheltering in Rafah before Israel began its operation there. Aroundhave fled the city since, according to UN figures.

The Biden administration has warned against a large-scale ground invasion in Rafah unless the wellbeing of civilians can be guaranteed. US President Joe Biden warned in an interview with CNNthat he would halt shipments of American weapons to Israel should it launch a major invasion of Rafah.

Jake Sullivan however said last week that he had detected “refinements” to Israel’s plan, which he said was now more “targeted and limited” in scale.

Israeli investigation

Sunday’s Israeli strike on the camp sheltering Palestinians in Rafah killed 45 people and injured another 200, sparking an international outcry. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday said the civilian casualties were “a tragic error.”

Israel launched an investigation into the event, and on Tuesday the IDF claimed the deadly fire at the camp could not have been caused solely by the weaponry used by Israel.

“Our munitions alone could not have ignited a fire of this size. Our investigation seeks to determine what may have caused such a large fire to ignite,” Hagari said. “We are looking into all possibilities, including the option that weapons stored in a compound next to our target, which we did not know of, may have ignited as a result of this strike.”

He showed aerial footage of a strike on a structure in which he said senior Hamas commanders were meeting andsaid that the military used two munitions with 17-kilogram (37 lbs) warheads.“This is the smallest munitions that our jets could use.”

“We are working to verify the cause of the fire, it is still too early to be determined,” Hagari said.“Even when we do find the cause of the fire that erupted it won’t make this situation any less tragic.”

Israel’s advance deeper into Rafah comes despite the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordering it to “immediately halt” its military operation there. The UN and some of Israel’s European allies have called on it to abide by the ICJ’s order, saying it is binding.