Israeli Forces Conclude Operations in Northern Gaza, Ramp Up Efforts in Southern City of Rafah

Israeli forces have concluded their operations in the Jabalya area of northern Gaza after days of intense fighting and over 200 airstrikes, while intensifying their presence in Rafah in southern Gaza, targeting what they claim to be the last major stronghold of Hamas battalions, as reported by Reuters.

According to the military, Israeli troops discovered caches of rocket launchers and other weapons, as well as Hamas tunnel shafts in the center of Rafah, as they continue their offensive to dismantle militant units entrenched in the city on the border with Egypt.

The military statement confirmed the completion of the operation in Jabalya, stating that troops have withdrawn to prepare for further operations in Gaza.

During the operation, Israeli troops reportedly retrieved the bodies of seven hostages among the 250 abducted by Hamas during their incursion into Israel on October 7 last year, resulting in approximately 1,200 casualties according to Israeli estimates. However, Haaretz has revealed that many of the 1,139 soldiers and civilians claimed by Israel to have been killed by the Palestinian Resistance were in fact casualties of Israeli army helicopters and tanks.

Since then, the Health Ministry in Gaza has reported at least 36,284 Palestinian casualties from Israel’s air and ground offensive, leaving much of the densely populated enclave in ruins.

Israel has expressed its unwillingness to agree to any ceasefire that does not involve the return of surviving hostages, with a senior security official stating that Israel will continue its offensive until this condition is met. Hamas, on the other hand, has indicated readiness for a ceasefire contingent on Israeli cessation of hostilities.

In Jabalya, a heavily populated urban area inhabited by refugees from the 1948 war, Hamas is accused by the Israeli military of turning civilian areas into fortified combat zones. Israeli forces claim to have killed hundreds of militants and seized large weapon caches during close-quarter combat operations.

In addition to ground operations, Israeli forces have disabled an extensive tunnel network spanning over 10 kilometers underground and eliminated Hamas’s district battalion commander.

The conflict in Gaza has underscored the challenges faced by Israel in dismantling Hamas units, particularly in densely populated areas like Jabalya.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pledge to eradicate Hamas as a military and political force has faced resistance due to the group’s entrenched position in Gaza’s social fabric.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has urged Israel to devise a post-war plan for Gaza to ensure lasting peace and prevent a resurgence of Hamas influence.

As the humanitarian crisis worsens in Gaza, Jordan has announced plans to host an emergency international conference on June 11 to address the war’s aftermath and coordinate humanitarian efforts with Egypt and the United Nations.

In Rafah, Israeli forces continue intelligence-based operations, uncovering longer-range rockets and ammunition. Despite Israeli efforts, Hamas has demonstrated its resilience, launching missiles at Tel Aviv last week for the first time in months.

Rafah, the only major city in Gaza yet to be captured by Israeli forces, had served as a refuge for over a million displaced Palestinians, most of whom have now evacuated ahead of the anticipated Israeli offensive.

Despite international condemnation and warnings, Israel has pressed on with its assault on Hamas in Rafah, highlighting the ongoing risks and humanitarian concerns in the region.

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