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Business News/ Global / Israeli tanks close in on central Rafah as global uproar grows
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Israeli tanks close in on central Rafah as global uproar grows

wsj

The latest advance in Israel’s operation in the city comes days after one of its airstrikes killed dozens of Palestinian civilians there, prompting condemnation from around the world.

An airstrike earlier this week in Rafah that Palestinian officials said killed civilians has demonstrated the inherent challenge that Israel faces in the city. (AFP)Premium
An airstrike earlier this week in Rafah that Palestinian officials said killed civilians has demonstrated the inherent challenge that Israel faces in the city. (AFP)

Israeli tanks advanced further into Rafah Tuesday, according to witnesses, as the Israeli military said it was expanding operations in the southern Gazan city even amid growing international condemnation.

The tanks passed near the Al-Awda mosque, a central Rafah landmark, Palestinians in the city told The Wall Street Journal. The Israeli military didn’t comment on the specifics of its expansion into Rafah, but Israeli army radio said the military had added a brigade to the five already operating in the city and troops were engaging in close-quarters combat with Hamas.

Israel is trying to thread the needle between pursuing a fight with Hamas in Rafah without further damaging its relationship with the U.S., its closest ally, or derailing fragile relations with the Arab world.

An airstrike earlier this week in Rafah that Palestinian officials said killed dozens of civilians has demonstrated the inherent challenge that Israel faces.

Israel for months has said it wants to destroy the last of Hamas’s military structure in Rafah and disrupt the U.S.-designated terrorist group’s smuggling network from Egypt into Gaza. But the U.S. has repeatedly warned Israel that it needs to do more to protect civilians.

Sunday’s airstrike raises further questions about whether the Israeli military can achieve its goals without crossing American red lines.

The airstrike came just days after the United Nations’ top court demanded that Israel halt some operations in Rafah, with the outcry over the civilian deaths echoing the one that followed an Israeli strike in April that killed seven aid workers in Gaza from World Central Kitchen.

The strike “further increases the political tensions," said Hugh Lovatt, a senior policy fellow with the European Council on Foreign Relations. It “further isolates Israel, further turns countries against Israel," he said.

Israel’s relationship with its Arab neighbor, Egypt, is also in jeopardy after a rare cross-border clash Monday between the two countries’ forces left an Egyptian officer dead. Egypt has become increasingly frustrated with Israel’s operation in Rafah, which sits on the other side of its border with Gaza.

More than 800,000 people have fled Rafah since the Israeli military ordered an evacuation of the eastern part of the city on May 6, but the city’s mayor estimates that around 500,000 remain as they struggle to find another place to take shelter.

Anat Peled contributed to this article

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