Israel launched raids on Gaza on Sunday after expanding an evacuation order for Rafah, with the UN warning that an outright invasion of the packed southern metropolis might result in a “epic” calamity....CONTINUE READING THE FULL ARTICLE>>>

Gaza’s civil defense service reported two medics killed on Sunday in the central town of Deir al-Balah, while AFP sources witnessed violent confrontations and heavy gunfire from Israeli helicopters near Gaza City.

Witnesses reported Israel carried out strikes in Rafah near the Egyptian border on Saturday, and AFP photos showed smoke rising above the city.

Israeli military ignored international criticism this week by entering eastern portions of the city, essentially closing one critical humanitarian crossing and stopping transportation through another.

Israel expanded an evacuation order for eastern Rafah, claiming that 300,000 Palestinians had departed the city since the army ordered them to leave earlier this week.

Residents loaded water tanks, mattresses, and other possessions onto vans and prepared to evacuate again.

“We don’t know where to go,” said Farid Abu Eida, who was preparing to leave Rafah, having already been displaced there from Gaza City.

“There is no place left in Gaza that is safe or not overcrowded… There’s nowhere we can go.”

Residents were directed to the “humanitarian zone” of Al-Mawasi, located on the northwest shore of Rafah.

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Hamas accused Israel of “expanding its incursion into Rafah to include new areas in the city’s center and west.”

According to Israeli army spokesman Daniel Hagari, “we have eliminated dozens of terrorists in eastern Rafah” and that troops were fighting “armed terrorists” at the crossing and had discovered “numerous underground tunnel shafts”.

On Friday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that if Israel launched a full-scale ground offensive in Rafah, Gaza would face a “epic humanitarian disaster”.

Protests over Israel’s war in Gaza extended to the Eurovision Song Contest in Sweden, where masses gathered outside.

Fans in Tel Aviv watched the music program on large screens, but as it became evident that Israel’s contestant, Eden Golan, would not win, spirits sank.

“Eden was incredible…” But there are individuals who despise us,” said Guy, a 20-year-old who refuses to reveal his surname.

‘Unsafe zones’

International outcry erupted over Israel’s operations in Rafah.

EU leader Charles Michel condemned the order to relocate Rafah people to “unsafe zones” on social media, calling it “unacceptable”.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said it has begun transporting 22 patients from a field hospital in Rafah, citing Israel’s activities in the city as “making it impossible to provide lifesaving medical assistance”.

The conflict began on October 7 with Hamas’ unprecedented attack on Israel, which killed more than 1,170 people, the majority of whom were civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official data.

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During the attack, militants also took hostages. Israel believes 128 of them remain in Gaza, including 36 who the military claims are dead.

According to the health ministry of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 34,971 individuals, the majority of them are women and children.

Truce hopes fade

While mediation efforts for a truce and captive release appeared to stagnate, Hamas’ armed wing announced that a hostage seen in a video published on Saturday had died from wounds sustained in an Israeli strike.

The Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades stated that Nadav Popplewell, a British-Israeli man, was injured in a strike a month ago and died “because he did not receive intensive medical care because the enemy has destroyed the Gaza Strip’s hospitals.”

The Israeli military made no comment on the footage, and AFP was unable to independently confirm its validity.

On Saturday, US President Joe Biden stated that a truce would be accomplished “tomorrow” provided Hamas released the detainees.

According to a US State Department analysis released on Friday, it was “reasonable to assess” that Israel had breached international law norms in its use of US weaponry, but there was insufficient evidence to prevent supplies.

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The State Department released its assessment two days after Biden publicly threatened to withhold some bombs and artillery shells if Israel launched an all-out attack on Rafah, where the UN estimates 1.4 million people are sheltering.

As Israel appeared to be preparing to invade Rafah, the Biden administration stopped the delivery of 3,500 bombs.

Hamas claims that Israel’s “continued control” and blockade of the Rafah crossing deepen the “humanitarian catastrophe” in the besieged enclave.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has promised to “eliminate” Hamas units in Rafah, after the army announced in January that it had dismantled the militant group’s command structure in northern Gaza.

The Israeli army said it reopened the Kerem Shalom border near Rafah on Wednesday, but relief agencies warned that getting help across the militarized area remained exceedingly difficult.

The army confirmed Saturday that rockets had been launched at the border, but there were no injuries.

Egypt’s state-run Al-Qahera News reported on Saturday that Egypt had refused to collaborate with Israel on aid entering Gaza through the Rafah gate.

According to a source, Egypt has “warned Israel of the repercussions of its continued control over the Rafah crossing, and held it fully responsible for the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip..CONTINUE READING>>

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