Israel-Gaza war: eight Palestinians reported killed as Israeli forces advance deeper into Rafah

Israeli use of heavy bombs raises ‘serious concerns’ under laws of war, says UN

Israelis gather during an antigovernment rally calling for early elections, outside the Knesset (Israeli parliament) in Jerusalem. Photograph: Menahem Kahana/AFP via Getty Images

Israeli tanks backed by warplanes and drones advanced deeper into the western part of the Gaza Strip city of Rafah on Wednesday, killing eight people, according to residents and Palestinian medics.

Residents said the tanks moved into five neighbourhoods after midnight. Heavy shelling and gunfire hit the tents of displaced families in the Al-Mawasi area, further to the west of the coastal enclave, they said.

Some eight months into the war, there has been no sign of let up in the fighting as efforts by international mediators, backed by the United States, have so far failed to persuade Israel and Hamas to agree to a ceasefire.

Nine people were also killed on Wednesday when an Israeli strike hit a group of citizens and merchants in Salah al-Din Road in the southern Gaza Strip as they waited for convoys of aid trucks carrying goods through the Kerem Shalom crossing, medical sources said.


Israeli forces have laid waste to much of Gaza and seized most of the Palestinian territory but have yet to achieve their stated goal of wiping out Hamas and freeing Israeli hostages.

Medics and Hamas media said eight Palestinians were killed in Al-Mawasi and many families fled north in panic. They did not identify the fatalities and the Israeli military said it was looking into the report.

Residents said Israeli army forces blew up several homes in western Rafah, which had sheltered more than half of Gaza’s 2.3 million people before last month, when Israel began its ground offensive and forced most of the population to head northwards.

Some United Nations and Palestinian figures put those who remained at under 100,000 people.

“Another night of horror in Rafah. They opened fire from planes, drones and tanks on the western areas to cover for their invasion,” said one Rafah resident, who asked not to be named. “Bullets and shells landed in the Mawasi area near where people slept, killing and wounding many.”

An Israeli commander briefing military correspondents in Rafah on Tuesday named two more locations in Rafah - Shaboura and Tel Al-Sultan - where the army planned to take on Hamas fighters.

“The Hamas battalions there are not yet well worn down and we need to dismantle them completely. We estimate it at more or less a month, at this intensity,” Colonel Liron Batito, head of the Givati Brigade, told Army Radio.

The Israeli military remained in control of the borderline between Rafah and Egypt. Footage circulated on social media showed the Rafah crossing, the only window for most of Gaza’s population with the outside world, was destroyed, buildings burnt, and Israeli tanks positioned there with the flag of Israel flying over some places.

The Israeli military said aid into Gaza had not been impeded by the damage.

Further north, Israel sent a column of tanks back into the Zeitoun neighbourhood in Gaza City and residents reported heavy fire from tanks and warplanes but also sounds of gun battles with Hamas-led fighters.

In another Gaza City suburb, Sheikh Radwan, an Israeli air strike on a house killed four Palestinians, including a child, medics said. A total of 20 people had been killed across Gaza.

The armed wings of Hamas and Islamic Jihad said fighters battled Israeli forces with anti-tank rockets and mortar bombs, and have in some areas detonated pre-planted explosive devices against army units.

Later on Wednesday, Palestinian gunmen fired rockets at the Kerem Shalom crossing in southern Gaza, the Israeli military said.

Israel’s ground and air campaign was triggered when Hamas-led militants stormed into southern Israel on October 7th, killing 1,200 people and seizing more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

The offensive has left Gaza in ruins, killed more than 37,400 people, according to Palestinian health authorities, and left much of the population homeless and destitute.

Since a week-long truce in November, repeated attempts to arrange a ceasefire have failed, with Hamas insisting on an end to the war and full Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu refuses to end the war before Hamas is eradicated and the hostages are freed.

Israel may have repeatedly violated laws of war in its Gaza campaign, with its use of heavy bombs raising ‘serious concerns’, a report from the United Nations human rights office (OHCHR) said.

In the report published on Wednesday, the OHCHR provided details on six Israeli attacks in the Gaza Strip that it said were emblematic of a concerning pattern, involving the suspected use of up to 2,000-pound bombs on residential buildings, a school, refugee camps and a market.

The rights office said it had verified 218 deaths in those attacks but said it had information indicating the number of fatalities “could be much higher”.

The report concludes the series of Israeli strikes, exemplified by the six attacks carried out between October 9th and December 2nd, suggested Israel’s military had “repeatedly violated fundamental principles of the laws of war”, a statement said.

Agence France-Presse reports that among the attacks listed were the strikes on Ash Shujaiyeh neighbourhood, in Gaza City on December 2nd last year. It caused destruction across an approximate diagonal span of 130m, destroying 15 buildings and damaging at least 14 others, it said.

The extent of the damage and the craters visible and seen on satellite imagery indicated that around nine 2,000-pound bombs were used, said the OHCHR, adding that it had received information that at least 60 people were killed.

“The requirement to select means and methods of warfare that avoid or at the very least minimise to every extent civilian harm appears to have been consistently violated in Israel’s bombing campaign,” said UN high commissioner for human rights Volker Türk.

Israel’s permanent mission to the UN in Geneva characterised the analysis as “factually, legally, and methodologically flawed”. - Reuters