Gaza fighting rages after Israel vows to intensify Rafah offensive

TOPSHOT - Palestinians who fled Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip arrive with their belongings to Khan Yunis on May 15, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Hamas militant group. (Photo by AFP)
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Updated 17 May 2024
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Gaza fighting rages after Israel vows to intensify Rafah offensive

  • Fierce battles overnight in and around the Jabalia refugee camp in the north of the war-ravaged Gaza Strip
  • Israeli warships launched strikes on Rafah, on the border with Egypt

RAFAH: Fighting raged Friday in Gaza after Israel vowed to intensify its ground offensive in Rafah despite international concerns for the hundreds of thousands of displaced Palestinians in the southern city.
With Gazans facing hunger, the US military said “trucks carrying humanitarian assistance began moving ashore via a temporary pier” it set up to aid Palestinians in the besieged territory.
Witnesses reported fierce battles overnight in and around the Jabalia refugee camp in the north of the war-ravaged Gaza Strip.
Israeli helicopters carried out heavy strikes around Jabalia while army artillery hit homes near Kamal Adwan hospital in the camp, they said.
The bodies of six people were retrieved and several wounded people were evacuated after an air strike targeted a house in Jabalia, Gaza’s Civil Defense agency said.
Rescue teams were trying to recover people from under the rubble of the Shaaban family home on Al-Faluja Street in the camp, it added.
Witnesses said Israeli warships launched strikes on Rafah, on the border with Egypt, where more than 1.4 million Palestinian civilians have been sheltering.
Hamas’s armed wing, the Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades, said in a statement that it “targeted enemy forces stationed inside the Rafah border crossing... with mortar shells.”
The war broke out after the October 7 attack on southern Israel which resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.
Out of 252 people taken hostage that day, 128 are still being held inside Gaza, including 38 who the army says are dead.
Israel vowed in response to crush Hamas and launched a military offensive on Gaza, where at least 35,303 people have been killed since the war erupted, according to data provided by the health ministry of Hamas-run territory.
Intensified ground operations
Israel has vowed to “intensify” its ground offensive in Rafah, in defiance of global warnings over the fate of Palestinians sheltering there.
Israel’s top ally the United States has joined other major powers in appealing for it to hold back from a full ground offensive in Rafah.
But Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Thursday said “additional forces will enter” the Rafah area and “this activity will intensify.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted Thursday that the ground assault on Rafah was a “critical” part of the army’s mission to destroy Hamas and prevent any repetition of the October 7 attack.
“The battle in Rafah is critical... It’s not just the rest of their battalions, it’s also like an oxygen line for them for escape and resupply,” he said.
The Israeli siege of Gaza has brought dire shortages of food as well as safe water, medicines and fuel for its 2.4 million people.
The arrival of occasional aid convoys has slowed to a trickle since Israeli forces took control last week of the Gaza side of the Rafah crossing.


Jordan braces for scorching heatwave as temperatures soar

Updated 5 sec ago
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Jordan braces for scorching heatwave as temperatures soar

  • The Gulf of Aqaba reached highs of 45 celsius
  • Temperatures in Jordan are set to rise slightly, with the heatwave persisting

AMMAN: The Jordan Meteorological Department forecast extreme heat for Monday, with most regions of the country — particularly the desert areas, Jordan Valley, Dead Sea and Aqaba — experiencing intense temperatures.

The Gulf of Aqaba reached highs of 45 celsius, the Southern Jordan Valley 44 celsius, Dead Sea 43 celsius, while the Desert Regions and the Northern Jordan Valley reached highs of 41 celsius. 

Cloud cover at medium and high altitudes is expected in the south and east of the Kingdom, state news agency Petra reported, with moderate northwesterly winds occasionally becoming brisk.

The JMD cautioned people against prolonged sun exposure, which could lead to dehydration, especially for vulnerable groups such as the elderly and those with health conditions. It also highlighted the risk of forest fires and the dangers of leaving children or flammable items, like perfumes and sanitizers, inside vehicles.

Looking ahead to Tuesday, temperatures in Jordan are set to rise slightly, with the heatwave persisting. Most areas will remain hot, the JMD said, and desert regions will face sweltering conditions. Northeasterly winds will prevail, shifting to moderate northwesterly by evening.

The heatwave will continue into Wednesday, with another slight increase in temperatures. Conditions will be blistering and dry across the highlands, the JMD warned, with extreme heat persisting elsewhere. Northeasterly winds will turn to moderate northwesterly later in the day.

Thursday will bring a modest reprieve as temperatures dip slightly. However, the weather will remain hot across most areas, with the desert, Jordan Valley, Dead Sea, and Aqaba continuing to sizzle. Moderate northwesterly winds will occasionally become brisk.


Iran calls for joint action by Islamic nations to stop Gaza war

Updated 43 min 37 sec ago
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Iran calls for joint action by Islamic nations to stop Gaza war

  • Israel’s military offensive on Gaza has killed at least 37,337 people so far

TEHRAN: Iran’s Acting Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani has called for joint action on the part of Islamic countries to pressure Israel into ending its brutal military activities in Gaza, which have devastated most of the enclave and killed thousands of Palestinians there.

Israel’s military offensive on Gaza has killed at least 37,337 people, mostly civilian women and children, since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza.

Humanitarian supplies for millions of Palestinians displaced by the conflict have been squeezed despite the Israeli military declaring it would “pause” fighting daily around a southern route to facilitate aid flows.

The Iranian official also spoke with his Afghan counterpart Amir Khan Muttaqi via telephone on Sunday, with the two discussing bilateral relations as well as the situation in war-ravaged Gaza.

Kani reiterated Iran’s readiness to help Kabul resolve its challenges and achieve growth, Iran’s news agency IRNA reported.


Kuwaiti citizen detained for alleged involvement in extremist group

Updated 53 min 18 sec ago
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Kuwaiti citizen detained for alleged involvement in extremist group

KUWAIT CITY: The Public Prosecution in Kuwait has ordered the detention of a citizen on charges of joining a group aimed at illegally undermining the country’s basic systems, state news agency KUNA reported on Sunday.

The individual is also accused of receiving training in making explosives and preparing poisons for illicit purposes, as well as planning to leave the country to fight with the group, though he was unable to do so.

The Public Prosecution interrogated the accused and presented him with the charges, according to a statement released on its official account on X. Investigation procedures are ongoing.


Yemen’s Houthis announce new maritime operations in support of Gaza

Updated 56 min 47 sec ago
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Yemen’s Houthis announce new maritime operations in support of Gaza

  • The Houthis declared that attacks on Israel-linked shipping will persist until Israel ends its war on Gaza and lifts the siege on Palestinian territories

SANAA: The Houthi militia’s army spokesman, Yahya Saree, announced on Sunday that an American destroyer and two Israel-linked ships were targeted in recent operations in the Red and Arabian seas.

Saree said that the US destroyer was hit by ballistic missiles in the Red Sea, while the two ships — Captain Paris and Happy Condor — were targeted in the Arabian Sea using naval missiles and drones, respectively.

He stated that these ships were targeted because they were en route to ports in Israeli-occupied territories.

Saree reaffirmed Yemen’s stance, declaring that attacks on Israel-linked shipping will persist until Israel ends its war on Gaza and lifts the siege on Palestinian territories.

He also emphasized that the Yemeni army would continue to defend its territory against US-UK “aggression,” referring to joint airstrikes by the two Western nations, which the latter claim were launched to protect international shipping.

The Houthis have rejected these claims, asserting that their military operations in international waters, ongoing since mid-November, only target Israeli ships or vessels heading to Israeli-occupied ports.


Lull in Gaza fighting as Biden urges truce in Eid message

Updated 17 June 2024
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Lull in Gaza fighting as Biden urges truce in Eid message

  • In a holiday message late Sunday, US President Joe Biden called for the implementation of a ceasefire plan he outlined last month

GAZA: Israel struck Gaza on Monday and witnesses reported blasts in the besieged territory’s south, but fighting has largely subsided after a day of relative calm and as Muslims marked Eid Al-Adha.
In a holiday message late Sunday, US President Joe Biden called for the implementation of a ceasefire plan he outlined last month, saying it was “the best way to end the violence in Gaza” and to help civilians suffering “the horrors of the war between Hamas and Israel.”
A daytime “pause” for aid deliveries announced at the weekend by Israel’s military around a southern Gaza route appeared to be holding, while elsewhere in the Palestinian territory an AFP correspondent said strikes and shelling have decreased.
In Gaza City, medics at Al-Ahli hospital said at least five people were killed in two separate air strikes, and witnesses reported tank shelling in the southern neighborhood of Zeitun.
At least one strike hit Bureij refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip, residents said.
Palestinian officials in the far-southern city of Rafah reported tank shelling early on Monday, before the start of the daily “local, tactical pause of military activity” announced by the army.
It said the pause “for humanitarian purposes will take place from 8:00 am (0500 GMT) until 7:00 p.m. (1600 GMT) every day until further notice along the road that leads from the Kerem Shalom crossing to the Salah Al-Din road and then northwards.”
An Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP “there was no change” in the military’s policy and stressed fighting “continues as planned.”
An army spokeperson told AFP the pause was in effect on Monday, and the military in a statement said troops were still operating in Rafah and central Gaza, reporting “close-quarters combat” that killed several militants.
Witnesses told AFP they could hear blasts in Rafah’s city center and west on Monday morning.


A map released by the army showed the declared humanitarian route extending up to Rafah’s European Hospital, about 10 kilometers (six miles) from Kerem Shalom.
Mahmud Basal, spokesman for the civil defense agency in the Hamas-ruled territory, said that apart from the deadly Gaza City strikes overnight, “the other areas of the Gaza Strip are somewhat calm.”
He reported military movements and gunfire in parts of Rafah as well as Bureij camp in central Gaza.
On Sunday, the first day of Eid Al-Adha, or the feast of the sacrifice, the spokesman said “calm has prevailed across all of Gaza.”
The United Nations has welcomed the Israeli announcement of the pause, although “this has yet to translate into more aid reaching people in need,” said Jens Laerke, spokesman for the UN humanitarian agency OCHA.
He called for “further concrete measures by Israel to address longstanding issues” on humanitarian needs.
Gazans “urgently need food, water, sanitation, shelter, and health care, with many living near piles of solid waste, heightening health risks,” Laerke said.
Dire shortages of food and other essentials in the Gaza Strip have been exacerbated by overland access restrictions and the closure of the key Rafah crossing with Egypt since Israeli forces seized its Palestinian side in early May.
The military said the pause was in effect as part of efforts to “increase the volumes of humanitarian aid” following discussions with the United Nations and other organizations.
It was announced a day after eight Israeli soldiers were killed in a blast near Rafah and three more troops died elsewhere, in one of the heaviest losses for the army in more than eight months of war against Hamas militants.


The war was triggered by Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack on southern Israel that resulted in the deaths of 1,194 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.
The militants also seized 251 hostages. Of these, 116 remain in Gaza, although the army says 41 are dead.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive aimed at wiping out Hamas has killed at least 37,337 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to the territory’s health ministry.
Egyptian, Qatari and US mediators have been pushing for a new Gaza truce, so far without success.
Washington has been pressing Israel and Hamas to formally accept Biden’s truce plan, which would allow an initial six-week pause to fighting.
“I strongly believe that the three-phase ceasefire proposal Israel has made to Hamas and that the UN Security Council has endorsed is the best way to end the violence in Gaza and ultimately end the war,” the US president said.
The only previous truce lasted one week in November and saw many hostages released in exchange for Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails, while increased aid flowed into Gaza.
Hamas has insisted on the complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza and a permanent ceasefire — demands Israel has repeatedly rejected.