Israeli forces continue pounding central, southern Gaza

CAIRO, 22 June : Israeli military forces pounded central and southern Gaza on Friday, according to residents and the Israeli army.

The Palestinian Red Crescent Society said at least 25 people were killed and 50 were injured in an attack on tents housing displaced people in Mawasi in western Rafah.

Israel’s military said the incident was under review, but it also said a preliminary look at the events “suggests that there is no indication that a strike was carried out by the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] in the Humanitarian Area in Al-Mawasi.”

Palestinians said that the attack came from tank shelling as Israeli forces pushed deeper into western and northern Rafah, the parts of the city they had yet to capture.

As Israeli ground forces engaged with Hamas fighters, the bombardment from tanks, planes, and ships off the coast prompted a wave of Palestinians to flee the city.

Israel has quickened its pace in recent days, some Rafah residents told Reuters.

“Last night was one of the worst nights in western Rafah, drones, planes, tanks, and naval boats bombarded the area. We feel the occupation is trying to complete the control of the city,” Hatem, 45, told Reuters by text message.

“They are taking heavy strikes from the resistance fighters, which may be slowing them down,” Hatem added.

A Palestinian man drives a loaded pickup truck past destruction from a previous Israeli bombardment in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on June 21, 2024.

A Palestinian man drives a loaded pickup truck past destruction from a previous Israeli bombardment in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on June 21, 2024.

Israel began its operation against Hamas in Rafah in early May.

Israel is also focusing on Deir al-Balah in central Gaza.

Health officials said 45 Palestinians were killed Friday, including the deaths in Mawasi and in Gaza City, where the Palestinian civil defense agency said five people were killed when a municipal garage facility was hit by an Israeli airstrike.

Speaking to reporters at U.N. headquarters in New York on Friday, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres responded to a question regarding the latest fighting by calling again for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza and the release of all hostages.

“Going on with a military operation that has a dramatic impact on civilians is not solving any problem,” he said.

The secretary-general also commented on the lawlessness inside Gaza that is preventing aid from getting into the enclave and reaching the people who need it.

Guterres said a breakdown in law and order within Gaza has allowed most of the aid trucks to be looted by armed gangs of Palestinians.

Guterres said the war in Gaza is unlike other wars, in that Israel attacks and bombs an area, then moves on instead of occupying and securing it.

The result is there is no authority in much of Gaza.

He said there must be a minimum of law and order in the region, which is why a cease-fire is so badly needed.

The secretary-general called the news briefing to warn about the escalation of hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah militants along Israel’s northern border with Lebanon.

The two sides have been exchanging attacks on either side of the border since the conflict in Gaza began in October.

He said they have exchanged “bellicose” rhetoric as well, “as if all-out war was imminent.”

He said the risk of the conflict in the Middle East to widen is real and must be avoided.

“Let’s be clear,” Guterres said, “The people of the region and the people of the world cannot afford Lebanon to become another Gaza.”

The war in Gaza was sparked when Hamas launched an attack in southern Israel on October 7, killing 1,200 people and taking 250 others hostage, according to Israeli tallies.

Israel’s military response in Gaza has destroyed much of the territory, killed more than 37,400 people, and injured more than 85,600 others, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between civilians and combatants. RSS

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