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Israeli tanks reach central Rafah as operations appears to intensify

A second strike kills more than 20 in the al-Mawasi humanitarian zone, tanks were reportedly used

IDF tanks advance into central Rafah, in late May 2024 (Photo: Screenshot).

Israeli tanks reportedly reached the center of Rafah on Tuesday afternoon, as the IDF appeared to begin intensified operations in the southern Gaza town. 

Palestinians reported the presence of Israeli tanks near the al-Awda Mosque in the center of Rafah, along with armored vehicles. 

Reports of an IDF advancement in Rafa came just after reports regarding another strike near the Tel al-Sultan area, and a strike in al-Mawasi led to the death of around 29 Palestinians. The IDF has denied striking any areas within al-Mawasi, the area of the humanitarian zone where it instructed Palestinians to evacuate before beginning ground operations in Rafah. 

"Contrary to the reports from the last few hours, the IDF did not strike in the Humanitarian Area in Al-Mawasi,” the IDF statement read. 

According to Palestinian reports, the strike that hit al-Mawasi, killing 21 people, was a result of tank shells. Emergency services in Gaza reported that a total of four tank shells hit a cluster of tents in al-Mawasi. The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry reported that 12 of the 21 deaths were women. 

Videos shared on social media by Palestinians showed several dead bodies – including some women with blood on their faces – in an area of tents allegedly set up in the humanitarian zone. 

Israel announced on Tuesday that it deployed another brigade to Rafah. The Bislamach Brigade, normally responsible for the training of squad commanders and platoon sergeants, last operated in Khan Younis in March. 

The IDF also said it located tunnels and weapons near Philadelphi Corridor. The Israeli military currently controls about 70% of the route, which runs along the Gaza-Egypt border. The capture of that part of the border was the first step in the ground incursion into Rafah at the beginning of May.

Egypt has warned Israel that taking control of the entire Philadelphi Corridor would be a violation of agreements between Israel and Egypt. Since Israel captured the Rafah crossing, tensions between the two countries have escalated. On Monday, an Egyptian soldier was killed during a fire exchange between Israeli and Egyptian forces. 

Both militaries announced investigations of the confrontation, while the IDF said that “dialogue is taking place with the Egyptian side.” 

The large number of brigades deployed in Rafah indicates that Israel is increasing its activity and may be preparing to launch a large-scale incursion.

Israel says Rafah is the last remaining Hamas stronghold in the coastal enclave and that a large-scale operation is necessary to complete its goals of removing Hamas and freeing the remaining 125 hostages in Gaza.

Around 400,000 people are believed to still be in Rafah at the moment.  

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

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