Israel Seizes Strategic Gaza-Egypt Corridor, Intensifies Military Offensive in Rafah

Thu May 30 2024
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RAFAH: Intense Israeli shelling and gunfire rocked Rafah in southern Gaza on Thursday, residents said, after Israel declared it had seized a strategic corridor along the Palestinian territory’s border with Egypt.

The Israeli military launched its incursion into Rafah in early May despite international objections over the safety of Palestinian civilians sheltering in the city.

The move by Israel to claim operational control over the 14-kilometer Philadelphi corridor has further exacerbated the ongoing hostilities in the region. Despite objections from the international community, including Egypt, Israel has pressed forward with its military operations in Rafah, targeting Palestinian civilians and infrastructure.

“Israel is using these allegations to justify continuing the operation on the Palestinian city of Rafah and prolonging the war for political purposes,” a high-level Egyptian source was quoted as saying by state-linked Al-Qahera News.

Egyptian officials have said a potential Israeli takeover of Philadelphi could violate the two countries’ 1979 peace deal, though there has been no official comment from Cairo since the military’s announcement.

Meanwhile, Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for a “broad-based, authoritative and effective international peace conference” to address the war.

Israel’s invasion of Rafah has also sparked a social media campaign with the slogan “All eyes on Rafah” that has been shared by tens of millions of users.

The recent air strike on a displacement camp in Rafah, which 45 Palestinian civilians, has sparked renewed outrage and condemnation, prompting discussions at the United Nations Security Council. Algeria has presented a draft resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire and the release of hostages, while France has expressed its determination to support efforts for a strong UN statement on the situation in Rafah.

The conflict has also prompted discussions among European nations regarding recognition of Palestinian statehood Spain, Norway, and Ireland have formally recognized the Palestinian state, sparking debate on the issue.

In a phone call with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas on Wednesday, France’s Emmanuel Macron said Paris was “determined to work with Algeria” to ensure the council “makes a strong statement on Rafah”.

The French president also called on Abbas to “implement necessary reforms”, offering the “prospect of recognition of the State of Palestine”.

The speaker of the Slovenian parliament said lawmakers there would vote next Tuesday on whether to join the recognition moves.

As Israel intensified violence, the toll on civilians continued to mount, with thousands fleeing Rafah in search of safety. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has reported that one million people have fled the area since the onset of the Israeli offensive.

In response to the conflict, Israeli war cabinet minister Benny Gantz’s centrist party has submitted a bill to dissolve parliament for an early election, further complicating the political landscape in Israel.

The United States has urged Israel to exercise restraint and refrain from further escalation in Rafah, emphasizing the importance of avoiding harm to civilians.

In Gaza, witnesses reported fighting in central and western Rafah. Others told AFP at least five people were killed in a bombardment near an aid warehouse in east Rafah.

Nasser Hospital in nearby Khan Younis said at least “four martyrs were brought to the facility following a bombing” in west Rafah.

Witnesses said Israeli forces had also demolished several buildings in the city’s eastern areas where the Israeli incursion began on May 7, initially focusing on the vital Rafah border crossing, a key entry point for humanitarian aid.

A steady stream of civilians have fled Rafah, transporting their belongings on their shoulders, in cars or on donkey-drawn carts.

Before the Rafah offensive began, the United Nations said up to 1.4 million people were sheltering in the city. Since then, one million have fled the area, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, has said.

The weekend Israeli strike and ensuing blaze, which tore through the camp for displaced Palestinians in Rafah, killed 45 people, according to Gaza officials and has prompted two days of discussions at the UN Security Council.

Since October 7 last year, Israel has launched a relentless bombardment campaign in Gaza killing at least 36,224 Palestinians, mostly women and children, according to the territory’s health ministry.

The Gaza health ministry on Thursday called to “open the… crossings and facilitate the exit of the sick and the wounded for treatment abroad”.

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