Palestinian gunmen kept up attacks against Israeli forces on Sunday in the Gaza Strip’s two main cities, weeks after they were overrun by troops and tanks, in a sign Hamas still maintains some control ahead of any potential truce.
Nearly four months into the war triggered by the Palestinian Islamist group’s deadly cross-border rampage in Israel, there was persistent fighting in Gaza City in the north of the densely populated enclave, and in Khan Younis to the south.
At the weekly Israeli cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said 17 of Hamas’ 24 combat battalions had been dismantled. The rest, he said, were mostly in the southern Gaza Strip – including Rafah, on the enclave’s Egyptian border.
The prospect of a push into Rafah has piled pressure on the hundreds of thousands of Palestinian civilians who have fled their homes elsewhere and are sheltering there. It also worries Cairo, which has said it will not admit any influx of Palestinian refugees in what it describes a bid to prevent any permanent dispossession.
An Israeli official told Reuters, however, that the military would coordinate with Egypt, and seek ways of evacuating most of the displaced people northward, ahead of any Rafah ground sweep.
Palestinians reported Israeli tank shelling and air strikes there, including one that killed two girls in a house.
As mourners bade farewell to the dead children, a relative, Mohammed Kaloub, said the air strike hit a room full of women and children in Rafah’s al-Salam neighborhood.