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Israeli forces advance in Rafah

1 min

Israeli tanks reached the centre of Rafah for the first time on Tuesday, witnesses said, three weeks into a ground operation in the southern Gaza city.

The army encircles the Islamist enclave © Mena Today 

Israeli tanks reached the centre of Rafah for the first time on Tuesday, witnesses said, three weeks into a ground operation in the southern Gaza city.

The tanks were spotted near Al-Awda mosque, a central Rafah landmark, the witnesses told Reuters. The Israeli military said its forces continued to operate in the Rafah area without commenting on reported advancements into the city centre.

Overnight, its forces pounded the city with airstrikes and tank fire, residents said, pressing its offensive despite an international outcry over an attack on Sunday that sparked a blaze in a tent camp, killing at least 45 Palestinians, more than half of them children, women and the elderly.

Israeli tanks pushed towards western neighbourhoods and took positions on the Zurub hilltop in western Rafah in one of the worst nights of bombardment reported by residents. On Tuesday, witnesses reported gunbattles between Israeli troops and Hamas-led fighters in the Zurub area.

Witnesses in Rafah said the Israeli military appeared to have brought in remote-operated armoured vehicles and there was no immediate sign of personnel in or around them. An Israeli military spokesperson had no immediate response.

Since Israel launched its incursion by taking control of the border crossing with Egypt three weeks ago, tanks had probed around the edges of Rafah and entered some of its eastern districts but had not yet entered the city in full force.

By Nidal al-Mughrabi

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