Israeli Troops Push Farther Into Rafah Despite Outcry

Blinken delivers harsher criticism of Gaza offensive
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 12, 2024 4:55 PM CDT
Evacuations Pick Up Speed as Israel Pushes Into Rafah
Palestinians displaced by the Israeli air and ground offensive in Gaza walk through a makeshift tent camp in Deir al Balah on Sunday.   (AP Photo/Abdel Kareem Hana)

The exodus of Palestinians from Gaza's last refuge accelerated Sunday as Israeli forces pushed deeper into the southern city of Rafah. Israel also pounded the territory's devastated north, where some Hamas militants have regrouped in areas the military said it had cleared months ago, the AP reports. Rafah is considered Hamas' last stronghold. Some 300,000 of the more than 1 million civilians sheltering there have fled the city following evacuation orders from Israel, which says it must invade to dismantle Hamas and return scores of hostages taken from Israel in the Oct. 7 attack that sparked the war.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken delivered some of the Biden administration's strongest public criticism yet of Israel's conduct of the war in Gaza, per the AP. Blinken said Israeli tactics have caused "a horrible loss of life of innocent civilians" but failed to neutralize Hamas leaders and fighters and could drive a lasting insurgency. Blinken made the comments Sunday on CBS' Face the Nation and NBC's Meet the Press. United Nations human rights chief Volker Turk said in a statement that he cannot see how a full-scale invasion of Rafah can be reconciled with international humanitarian law.

Rafah had been sheltering 1.3 million Palestinians, most of whom had fled fighting elsewhere. But Israel has now evacuated the eastern third of the city. Most people are heading to the heavily damaged city of Khan Younis or Muwasi, a coastal tent camp where some 450,000 are living in squalid conditions. The UN has warned that a full-scale invasion would further cripple humanitarian operations. The main aid entry points near Rafah are already affected. Israeli troops have captured the Gaza side of the Rafah crossing, forcing it to shut down. A senior Egyptian official told the AP that Cairo has lodged protests with Israel, the US, and European governments, saying the offensive has put its decades-old peace treaty with Israel—a cornerstone of regional stability—at risk.

(More Israel-Hamas war stories.)

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