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Day 218: IDF intensifies Rafah operation, re-enters two Gaza neighborhoods as Hamas fire stops humanitarian aid

IDF urges more evacuations in Rafah as it broadens operations

Israeli troops in Gaza (Photo: IDF)

Israel Defense Forces on Saturday called on additional neighborhoods of the southern city of Rafah in the Gaza Strip to evacuate ahead of an expected widening in its ongoing military operations over the past few days.

The IDF entered the eastern outskirts of the town on Tuesday, capturing the important border crossing with Egypt. Since then, Israeli soldiers have located numerous tunnels and killed about 50 terrorists in the area.

Two soldiers of the 401st Armored Brigade were seriously injured by RPG fire targeting their tank amid the continuing clashes in the area.

So far around 300,000 Palestinians have followed the IDF’s instructions and left the southern town of Rafah, moving to the designated humanitarian zone along the coast over the past several days.

Palestinians leave their homes in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, May 8, 2024. (Photo: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

The “measured” expansion of Rafah operations was decided by the Israeli cabinet on Thursday, in the face of continued U.S. pressure after President Joe Biden threatened to halt weapons shipments in case Israel entered population centers in the Gaza Strip earlier this week.

On Friday, the Biden administration announced that the U.S. will continue transferring military arms to Israel for its ongoing conflict with Hamas in Gaza. This decision follows a U.S. report which affirmed that Israel's assurances of compliance with international law were "credible and reliable."

In addition, White House National Security Council Spokesman John Kirby on Saturday confirmed that the U.S. didn’t think Israel’s Rafah operation so far indicated a “major ground operation.”

“It appears to be localized near the crossing,” Kirby said, indicating tacit U.S. support for the moment while adding, “We’re watching this with concern.”

Meanwhile, Hamas continued to ramp up its rocket fire from Rafah, shooting four rockets at the area of the Kerem Shalom Border Crossing.

“Thanks to the IDF Aerial Defense Array, the rockets were successfully intercepted and no injuries were reported,” IDF International Spokesman Lt.-Col. (s.) Nadav Shoshani wrote on 𝕏.

“Hamas keeps firing at one of the biggest crossings of aid into Gaza, the IDF keeps protecting it,” Shoshani added. Hamas fire has interrupted aid transfers through Kerem Shalom numerous times over the past few days.

On Friday, Hamas also launched two rocket barrages at Beersheva, which originated from Rafah and near Deir al-Balah, further north in the enclave. Israeli airstrikes destroyed the launch sites in Rafah a short time afterward.

This was the first time since December that a rocket alarm had been activated in the city of Beersheva following launches from the Gaza Strip. Several rockets were intercepted no serious damage or injuries were reported.

Five Israeli soldiers were killed as the IDF’s operation in the Zeitoun neighborhood of Gaza City continued.

Four soldiers were killed and two additional soldiers sustained serious injuries when an explosive charge detonated near the soldiers in an alleyway. Another soldier was killed in a gun battle during the fighting.

The Israeli Air Force continued its support operations by destroying dozens of terrorist targets including military buildings, launch positions, observation posts, and groups of armed terrorists, many of whom were identified by ground troops during their advance.

In addition, the Israeli military is preparing for a similar operation to Zeitoun in the area of Jabalya, where the IDF had operated in the past and Hamas has since reestablished its civilian control.

The estimated 100- to 150,000 residents of the area were called to evacuate the area, the IDF said.

“You are in a dangerous combat zone. Hamas is trying to rebuild its capabilities in the area, and therefore the IDF will work with great force against the terror organizations in the area in which you are located,” IDF Arabic Spokesman Lt.-Col. Avichay Adraee announced.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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