Tanks raids across Rafah as Israel defies world court order

Gaza death toll rises beyond 36,000. Palestinian ministry says medical access to Rafah urgently needed.

CAIRO (Reuters): Israeli tanks mounted raids across Rafah in defiance of the World Court for a second day on Wednesday, after Washington said the assault did not amount to a major ground operation in the southern Gazan city that U.S. officials have warned Israel to avoid.

Israel sent its tanks into the heart of Rafah for the first time on Tuesday, despite an order from the International Court of Justice to end its attacks on the city, where many Palestinians had taken refuge from widespread bombardment.

The United States, Israel’s closest ally, reiterated its opposition to a major Israeli ground offensive in Rafah but said on Tuesday it did not believe such an operation was under way.

Rafah residents said on Wednesday that Israeli tanks had pushed into Tel Al-Sultan in western Rafah and Yibna and near Shaboura in the centre before retreating towards a buffer zone on the border with Egypt, in contrast with offensives elsewhere.

Israel’s military controlled three quarters of the buffer zone and aimed to control all of it to prevent Hamas smuggling in weapons, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s National Security Advisor Tzachi Hanegbi said.

He expected fighting in Gaza to continue throughout 2024 at least, he said, signalling Israel was not ready to heed international calls to agree a ceasefire with the Hamas militants who run Gaza and exchange the hostages they hold for Palestinian prisoners.

The armed wings of Hamas and its allies Islamic Jihad said they confronted the invading forces with anti-tank rockets and mortar bombs and blew up previously planted explosive devices.

The Israeli military said three soldiers were killed and three others badly wounded in combat in southern Gaza, without elaborating.

Israel’s public broadcaster Kan radio said they were hurt by an explosive device set off in a building in Rafah.

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