Gaza fighting intensifies, Israel questions UN site presence

May 16, 2024 10:24 am

[Source: Reuters]

Israeli troops battled militants across Gaza on Wednesday, including in the southern city of Rafah that had been a refuge for civilians, in an upsurge of the more than seven-month-old war that has killed tens of thousands of Palestinians.

Antagonism between Israel and the United Nations worsened as the Israeli army sought an explanation for footage showing armed men next to U.N. Palestinian relief agency vehicles. Separately, India was working to bring home the body of a U.N. staffer killed in Rafah by what the global body said was tank fire.

Israeli forces have in recent days pressed into the east of Rafah in pursuit of what they say are four Hamas battalions despite warnings by Israel’s main ally, the United States, to hold off to avoid mass civilian casualties.

Article continues after advertisement

The U.S. also wants Israel to produce a clear plan for Gaza’s future, a position that Secretary of State Antony Blinken underlined by saying neither Israeli occupation nor Hamas governance were acceptable.

The remarks drew an apparent Israeli riposte, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying post-war planning was impossible without first completing the demolition of Hamas.

Netanyahu was later publicly challenged over post-war plans for Gaza by his defence minister, Yoav Gallant, who said he had tried to promote a blueprint for an alternative Gaza administration made up of Palestinians, but “got no response” from various decision-making cabinet forums under Netanyahu.

In an apparent response, Netanyahu said any move to establish an alternative to Hamas as the government of Gaza required that the Palestinian Islamist group first be eliminated, and demanded this goal be pursued “without excuses”.