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UN says 800,000 have fled fierce fighting in Rafah

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Published: 09:49, 19 May 2024

UN says 800,000 have fled fierce fighting in Rafah

Photo: Collected

Heavy clashes and bombardment rocked the southern Gaza city of Rafah Saturday, as the United Nations said 800,000 people had been "forced to flee" Israel's assault on Hamas militants there.

Israel's military said air strikes hit more than 70 targets across Gaza while ground troops conducted "targeted raids" in eastern Rafah, killing 50 militants and locating dozens of tunnel shafts. Philippe Lazzarini of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees said that since Israel's Rafah operation began, there had been a massive movement of people.

"800,000 people are on the road having been forced to flee since the Israeli forces started the military operation in the area on 6 May", the UNRWA chief said on X.

He said people were fleeing to areas without water supplies or adequate sanitation.

It came as political divisions in Israel's war cabinet burst into the open on Saturday night, with minister Benny Gantz saying he would quit unless Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved a post-war plan for the Gaza Strip. Gantz called for six goals to be met, including establishing a multinational civilian administration for Gaza.

Netanyahu hit back, calling the threat "washed-up words" that would mean "defeat for Israel".

Meanwhile, Hamas's armed wing, the Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades, said it fired a barrage of rockets towards Israel's port of Ashkelon and targeted an Israeli command centre at the Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza.

Late Saturday, Israel's military issued new evacuation orders for parts of northern Gaza, saying militants in the area had fired rockets at Israel.

Earlier, an AFP reporter said air strikes and artillery pounded eastern Rafah as warplanes overflew the city on Gaza's border with Egypt. More than 10 days into what the army called a "limited" Rafah operation that sparked the exodus, fighting has also flared again in northern Gaza.

Israel said in early January it had dismantled Hamas's command structure in the north, but the army said Hamas -- whose October 7 attack sparked the war -- had been "in complete control here in Jabalia until we arrived a few days ago".

Hamas slammed what it called Israel's "escalating crimes of the occupation" and "intensified brutal raids" on Jabalia, saying they had killed dozens of civilians and wounded hundreds. 

Messenger/Disha

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