HomeGlobal Defence UpdatesIsrael-Hamas war: Israeli tanks advance further in Rafah as heavy fighting continues...

Israel-Hamas war: Israeli tanks advance further in Rafah as heavy fighting continues in Gaza

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Israeli forces stepped up military strikes on Gaza on Friday, residents and medics said, with heavy fighting reported in Jabalia in the north and tanks pushing further into Rafah in the south.

Medics said at least five Palestinians were killed when houses were hit in Jabalia and more were believed to be trapped under rubble, but that the area could not be reached due to the intensity of the bombardment.

In the southern city of Rafah bordering Egypt, where an escalating Israeli assault has sent hundreds of thousands of people fleeing from what was one of the few remaining places of refuge, residents reported explosions and smoke rising in the distance as tanks advanced further into the eastern district of Jneina.

Judges at the U.N.’s top court were due to rule later in the day on South Africa’s request to order Israel to halt its Rafah offensive and withdraw from Gaza, in part of a wider case accusing Israel of genocide.

Israel launched its assault on Gaza following a Hamas-led attack on southern Israeli communities on Oct. 7 that killed 1,200 people and saw more than 250 hostages seized, according to Israeli tallies. Since then, Israel’s incursion has killed more than 35,000 people, according to Gaza health authorities.

The Israeli military said it had recovered the bodies of three hostages taken into Gaza after they were killed on Oct. 7. It said the bodies of Hanan Yablonka, Michel Nisenbaum and Orion Hernandez Radoux were recovered overnight in a joint operation by the army and the intelligence services in Jabalia. Israel says its twin goals in Gaza are bringing back the remaining hostages and destroying Hamas.

“We will not stop fighting for their freedom,” said military spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari in a televised statement announcing the recovery of the three bodies. “Every decent country would do the same.”

Simultaneous Israeli assaults on the northern and southern edges of Gaza this month have caused a new exodus of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fleeing their homes, and have cut off the main access routes for aid, raising the risk of famine.

Israel had said its forces cleared Jabalia, the largest of Gaza’s eight historic refugee camps, months earlier in the war. But it returned there this month saying it needed to prevent Islamist militants regrouping, and the area has seen intense fighting in recent weeks.

Residents said on Friday tanks had destroyed the local market and bulldozers continued to raze shops and property in Jabalia’s narrow alleys. Hamas’s armed wing said its fighters had engaged three tanks there.

Tanks also advanced close to the nearby Kamal Adwan Hospital, where medics said Israeli fire had caused the suspension of operations at the last functioning medical facility in northern Gaza Strip.

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