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Gaza war: Almost 450,000 people have fled Rafah in a week, UN says


Hadeel Radwan, a displaced mother of a newborn baby who is sheltering in the western Tal al-Sultan area, said she was terrified by the constant shelling and was enduring shortages of drinking water and other supplies.

She told AFP news agency that fellow residents had been fleeing, but “I had a C-section and moving quickly, under threat, would be difficult for me.”

Other Palestinians told Reuters news agency that Israeli tanks were advancing deeper into residential areas in south-eastern Rafah and had crossed the main north-south road to the nearby Rafah crossing with Egypt, which Israeli troops took control of on Tuesday.

“The tanks advanced this morning west of Salah al-Din road, into the Brazil and al-Jneineh neighbourhoods,” one resident said. “They are in the streets inside the built-up area and there are clashes,” they added.

Al-Jneineh was one of the eastern neighbourhoods covered by the initial Israeli evacuation order, while Brazil was included in the expanded evacuation zone declared on Saturday.

Residents have been told to head towards an “expanded humanitarian area”, which stretches north from the coastal strip of al-Mawasi to the central town of Deir al-Balah. But the UN has said the area lacks basic infrastructure.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the Israel Defense Forces said troops had “eliminated several armed terrorist cells in close-quarters encounters on the Gazan side of the Rafah crossing” and also “eliminated a number of terrorists and located weapons” in eastern areas of Rafah.

Hamas – which is proscribed as a terrorist organisation by Israel, the UK and other countries – said its fighters had killed and wounded several Israeli troops after it targeted an Israeli troop carrier with an anti-tank missile in the al-Salam neighbourhood, south of Brazil, and blew up a booby-trapped building on George Street, which runs through al-Jneineh.

The IDF said a soldier was seriously wounded in combat in southern Gaza.

After seven months of war in Gaza, Israel has insisted victory is impossible without taking Rafah and eliminating the last remaining Hamas battalions.

But the UN and Western powers have warned that an all-out assault could lead to mass civilian casualties and a humanitarian catastrophe.

As well as the mass displacement of Palestinians in the city, the UN has warned that it is running out of supplies of fuel, food and other essential goods because the Rafah crossing is closed and the nearby Kerem Shalom crossing with Israel is inaccessible due to the hostilities in the area.

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