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Sun. Jun 23rd, 2024

Israeli forces on Friday struck targets across the Gaza Strip, with witnesses reporting air raids around the southern city of Rafah, the latest focus of the nearly eight-month war.

Israel launched its military incursion into Rafah in early May despite international objections over the safety of civilians sheltering in the city on Gaza’s border with Egypt.

A strike that sparked a fire and killed dozens in a displacement camp at the weekend drew a wave of fresh condemnation.

Witnesses said Friday Israeli strikes hit the Rafah area as well as central Gaza’s Nuseirat, and an AFP correspondent reported intense bombardment in the north.

Strikes on two separate locations killed a total of 11 people overnight, medical sources at a hospital in Deir al-Balah and the Nuseirat refugee camp reported.

The Israeli military said its troops “continue… operational activities” in the Rafah area, and found rocket launchers, weapons and “tunnel shafts” in the city centre.

An air strike “targeted and eliminated” a militant in that area, it added.

In central Gaza, further air strikes “eliminated several terrorists who operated near” troops, the military said without elaborating.

Israel, which has repeatedly vowed to destroy Hamas after the Palestinian militant group attacked southern Israel on October 7, said on Wednesday its forces had taken over the 14-kilometre (8.5-mile) Philadelphi corridor along the Gaza-Egypt border, where it alleges weapons were being smuggled.

Egypt, a longtime mediator in the conflict, has yet to officially comment on the Israeli takeover, which officials have previously said could violate the two countries’ 1979 peace deal.

Amid stalled diplomatic efforts towards a ceasefire, Hamas said it had informed mediators it would only agree a “comprehensive” truce agreement including a hostage-prisoner swap if Israel halts its “aggression”.

On Thursday, Israel said its forces had killed about 300 Palestinian militants in Rafah since launching its military operation in the city.

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

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