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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Israeli tanks enter Rafah

The IDF has announced it is carrying out “a precise counterterrorism operation” in the Gazan city

The Israeli army has entered the city of Rafah in southern Gaza, as West Jerusalem announced strikes against Hamas militants in the area.

In a statement on Tuesday morning, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said it was conducting “a precise counterterrorism operation in the eastern Rafah area” in a bid “to eliminate Hamas terrorists.”

Read more: Israel orders evacuation of Rafah

A video released by the IDF shows at least four Israeli tanks on the Gazan side of the Rafah Crossing on the border with Egypt. Part of the clip was apparently filmed by a soldier sitting on top of one of the vehicles.

The IDF also said its troops have “managed to establish operational control of the Gazan side of the crossing.” It added that ground troops and the air force had destroyed Hamas military structures in the area, claiming to have eliminated approximately 20 militants.

According to an unnamed Palestinian security official and an Egyptian official cited by the Times of Israel, Israeli tanks reached as close as 200 meters from the Rafah Crossing terminal, which is directly on the Egyptian border. The Egyptian official told the paper that “the operation appeared to be limited in scope.”

The IDF said it had encouraged local residents to evacuate to the expanded humanitarian area in Al-Mawasi, located on the coast and further away from the Rafah Crossing.

Read more: Turkey halts trade with Israel amid Gaza crisis

The Rafah operation comes after the IDF said mortar shells had been fired from the area at Israeli troops, killing four soldiers and injuring several others. It also follows the decision by Hamas to accept an Egyptian-Qatari ceasefire proposal, the details of which so far remain unclear.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office, however, said that the deal “is far from meeting Israel’s core demands.” It added that the national war cabinet had unanimously decided to push ahead with an IDF operation in Rafah, “in order to apply military pressure on Hamas” and to make progress on freeing hostages captured by the Palestinian militant group since the start of hostilities on October 7.