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Gaza war: Israel says more troops to ‘enter Rafah’ as operations intensify

Israel’s Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said that more troops would “enter Rafah” as military operations intensify in Gaza’s far-southern city, in remarks issued by his office on Thursday.

The operation “will continue as additional forces will enter” the Rafah area, Gallant said, adding that “several tunnels in the area have been destroyed by our troops … this activity will intensify”.

“Hundreds of [terror] targets have already been struck, and our forces are manoeuvring in the area,” he said, according to a statement released by his office after he visited Rafah the previous day.

Israeli forces took control earlier in May of the Gaza side of the Rafah crossing with Egypt, in a push launched in defiance of US warnings that around 1.4 million civilians sheltering there could be caught in the crossfire.

The United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, has said “600,000 people have fled Rafah since military operations intensified” in Rafah.

Israeli Minister of Defence Yoav Gallant (right) holds Situation Assessment at the Gaza Border in the Rafah Area. Photo: Ministry of Defense of Israel/dpa

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to launch a full-scale ground operation in Rafah in a bid to dismantle the remaining battalions of Hamas.

Gallant said that the military’s offensive against Hamas had hit the militant group hard.

“Hamas is not an organisation that can reorganise, it does not have reserve troops, it has no supply stocks and no ability to treat the terrorists that we target,” he said.

“The result is that we are wearing Hamas down.”

However, Israel’s top ally the United States has warned that it had not seen any credible Israeli plan to protect civilians in Rafah.

Displaced Palestinians leave an unsafe area in Rafah on Wednesday, as Israeli forces continued to battle and bomb Hamas militants around the southern Gaza Strip city. Photo: AFP

Secretary of State Antony Blinken told NBC on Sunday that “Israel’s on the trajectory, potentially, to inherit an insurgency with many armed Hamas left or, if it leaves, a vacuum filled by chaos, filled by anarchy and probably refilled by Hamas”.

The Gaza war broke out after Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack on southern Israel, which resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to Israeli official figures.

Israel’s military retaliation has killed at least 35,272 people, mostly civilians, according to the health ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza.

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