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Damage after an Israeli bombardment in Jenin in March Alamy
West Bank

Fighting rages on in Gaza's Rafah after first aid delivery via US-built pier

The Taoiseach met with Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store today, where they discussed recognising the State of Palestine


HEAVY CLASHES AND bombardment continues to rock Gaza’s southern city of Rafah as the Israeli military announced the first humanitarian aid had entered the besieged territory via a US-built pier.

The military said its air forces “struck over 70 targets” across the Gaza Strip over the past 24 hours while ground troops “continue precise operations” in eastern Rafah.

More than 10 days into what the Israeli military called a “limited” operation in Rafah that sparked an exodus of Palestinians sheltering there, fighting between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants has also flared again in Gaza’s north.

The Kuwaiti hospital said an overnight Israeli strike killed two people in a displacement camp in Rafah, with witnesses reporting heavy gunfire and shelling in the city’s southeast and jets bombarding its eastern areas.

The army said its forces “conducted targeted raids” in Rafah and found weapons and explosives.

AFP correspondents, witnesses and medics said there were intense battles overnight in the northern Jabalia refugee camp, after the Israeli army reported on Friday “perhaps the fiercest” violence in the town in more than seven months of war.

Israeli forces “eliminated terrorists in a number of battles” in the Jabalia area and parts of central Gaza, the army said.

Israel in early January said it had dismantled Hamas’s command structure in northern Gaza, but the army said the Palestinian group “was in complete control here in Jabalia until we arrived a few days ago”.

The Israeli incursion into Rafah, launched despite overwhelming international opposition and as mediators were hoping for a breakthrough in stalled truce talks, has worsened an already dire humanitarian crisis, aid groups say.

Rafah operation hampers aid

In the coming days, around 500 tonnes of aid are expected to be delivered to Gaza through the pier, according to US Central Command.

But UN agencies and humanitarian aid groups have warned sea or air deliveries cannot replace far more efficient truck convoys into Gaza, where the United Nations has repeatedly warned of looming famine.

The European Union welcomed the first shipment from Cyprus to the Gaza pier, but called on Israel to “expand deliveries by land and to immediately open additional crossings”.

The Rafah crossing, a vital conduit for humanitarian assistance, has been closed since the Israeli Rafah operation began early last week.

The army said troops in Gaza had recovered the bodies of three hostages who had been “murdered” on 7 October.

Amid the aid shortages, the Israeli army said “dozens of Israeli civilians” set fire to a Gaza-bound aid truck in the occupied West Bank on Thursday night, in the second such attack in a week.

Israel has vowed to defeat remaining Hamas forces in Rafah, which it says is the last bastion of the Iran-backed group.

The looming Israeli assault has prompted nearly 640,000 of the 1.4 million people who had been sheltering in Rafah to flee to other areas, the UN humanitarian office said.

Taoiseach Simon Harris today met with Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store, where they discussed recognising the State of Palestine, which the Irish government plans to do before the end of the month.

“My discussions today follow on from a range of conversations in recent days with the King of Jordan, the Prime Minister of Spain, the Prime Minister of Australia, the Prime Minister of Slovenia & the President of Israel,” Harris said on X.

A government statement said he and Store agreed that the deteriorating humanitarian conditions in Gaza underscored the need for an immediate ceasefire and for unhindered access for aid.

Islamic Jihad targeted

Palestinian sources in Rafah told AFP that Israeli forces were operating in the city’s Al-Salam and Jenina neighbourhood as well as on the Philadelphi route along the Egyptian border.

“Troops are advancing and retreating around these areas,” a security source said.

Cairo, which has been involved in mediation efforts during the war, says a potential Israeli takeover of Philadelphi could violate its landmark 1979 peace deal with Egypt.

In northern Gaza’s Beit Lahia, witnesses reported air strikes near Kamal Adwan hospital on Saturday.

The hospital’s director Hussam Abu Safiya told AFP on Friday that the facility, which has received “large numbers of injured and killed” from fighting in nearby Jabalia, was running low on medical supplies and fuel to power generators.

The fuel aid that had reached the hospital was “barely enough for a few days”, Abu Safiya said.

The World Health Organization has received no medical supplies in Gaza since the Rafah operation began on May 6, spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said Friday.

Meanwhile Israel said it killed two senior Islamic Jihad militants in separate air strikes in the northern West Bank and in Rafah.

The armed wing of Islamic Jihad confirmed that a local commander was killed in an overnight strike on the West Bank’s Jenin refugee camp.

However there was no immediate comment from the group, which has fought alongside Hamas, on the army’s announcement that a “significant” operative was killed in Rafah.

A military statement did not name the slain militant and said he had been involved in “preparing… for operations against IDF (army) ground troops in the area”.