Israeli forces kill dozens in deeper Gaza push

File Picture

Israeli forces killed 35 Palestinians in aerial and ground bombardments across the Gaza Strip on Thursday and battled in close combat with Hamas in areas of the southern city of Rafah, health officials and Hamas media said.

Israeli tanks advanced in Rafah's southeast, edged towards the city's western district of Yibna and continued to operate in three eastern suburbs, residents said.

Simultaneous Israeli assaults on the northern and southern edges of Gaza this month have caused a new exodus of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fleeing their homes, and have cut off the main access routes for aid, raising the risk of famine.

Israel says it has no choice but to attack Rafah to root out the last battalions of Hamas fighters it believes are sheltering there. Its troops have been slowly moving into the eastern outskirts of Rafah since the start of the month.

UNRWA, the main United Nations agency in Gaza, estimated as of Monday that more than 800,000 people had fled Rafah since Israel began targeting the city in early May, despite international pleas for restraint.

In parallel, Israeli forces stepped up a ground offensive in Jabalia, where the military has razed several residential areas, and struck nearby Beit Hanoun town, areas where Israel declared major operations over months ago. Israel says it has had to return to prevent Hamas from regrouping there.

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