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Israeli Forces Reportedly Seize Key Areas in Southern Gaza

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Israeli forces have reached the centre of the southern Gaza city of Rafah and have reportedly seized a strategically important hill overlooking the nearby border with Egypt. Witnesses and local journalists have observed tanks stationed at the al-Awda roundabout, a key landmark in the area. Additionally, tanks have been spotted on Zoroub Hill, effectively giving Israel control of the Philadelphi Corridor, a narrow strip of land running along the border to the sea. The Israeli military has stated that its troops are continuing activities against “terror targets” in Rafah three weeks after launching the ground operation there.

Residents reported intense bombardment in the western areas of the city overnight. This comes despite international condemnation of an Israeli airstrike and resulting fire on Sunday that resulted in the deaths of dozens of Palestinians at a tented camp for displaced people. The Israeli military has stated that it is investigating the possibility that the fire was caused by the explosion of weapons stored by Hamas in the vicinity. However, the military has denied reports from local health and emergency services officials that tank shells had hit another camp in al-Mawasi, on the coast west of Rafah, killing at least 21 people.

According to the Reuters news agency, local health officials claimed that the blast occurred after Israeli tank shells hit a cluster of tents in al-Mawasi. Videos posted to social media and analyzed by BBC Verify showed multiple people with serious injuries, some lying motionless on the ground near tents and other temporary structures. However, there was no clear sign of a blast zone or crater, making it impossible to ascertain the cause of the incident.

The IDF has stated that, contrary to reports from the last few hours, it did not strike in the humanitarian area in al-Mawasi. Israel has emphasized that victory in its seven-month war with Hamas in Gaza is impossible without taking control of Rafah and has rejected warnings that doing so could have catastrophic humanitarian consequences. The UN reports that around a million people have fled the fighting in Rafah, but several hundred thousand more could still be sheltering there.

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