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Israel's Gaza attacks continue despite ‘tactical pauses’ claim, Unrwa chief says

Meanwhile, Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid asks Netanyahu to dissolve government, after dismantling war cabinet
A Palestinian woman walks past a house destroyed by an Israeli strike in Rafah on 22 May 2024 (Reuters)

Philippe Lazzarini, head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (Unrwa) on Monday said Israeli attacks are ongoing and no changes have been reflected on the ground in Gaza, after Israel announced “tactical pauses” along a road in Rafah.

On Sunday, the Israeli military declared a daily humanitarian pause, from 8pm to 7pm local time in the area from the Karem Abu Salem crossing, also known as Kerem Shalom, in southern Israel, to the Salah al-Din Road and then northwards. 

The Israeli military said the pauses aim at allowing in more aid through a pre-determined route into the south. However the army later backtracked, after coming under pressure from the government, saying operations in Rafah, the main focus of its operations in southern Gaza, would not stop. 

The pause was slammed by the Israeli government, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his far-right allies, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir

The Gaza government office said talk of "tactical pauses" was "an Israeli lie". 

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Rafah crossing departure hall destroyed

On Monday morning, Israeli forces set ablaze the departure hall of Rafah crossing, between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, according to local officials and media reports. 

Pictures shared online, which were not verified by Middle East Eye, showed what appears to be the exterior of the crossing’s departure hall incinerated. 

Damage to the crossing, the only non-Israeli exit point for Palestinians with the outside world, may make it inoperable in the near future, leaving Gaza's 2.2 million Palestinian population trapped inside.

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The invasion of Rafah and the seizure of the crossing with Egypt has deepened an already perilous humanitarian crisis, with vital aid routes, through the Rafah and Karem Abu Salem crossings, blocked.

The Gaza government media office has called for an urgent opening of crossings with Gaza to allow humanitarian aid to reach Palestinians in the northern parts of the strip.

Meanwhile, residents have reported that Israeli forces were advancing deeper into the central and western areas of Rafah under heavy fire from the ground and the air.

The Palestinian health ministry said Israeli forces have killed at least 10 Palestinians and wounded 73 more in the past 24 hours, including reporter Mahmoud Qasem.

Qasem's death brings the number of journalists and media workers killed in Gaza since 7 October to 151. Qasem worked for the Falasteen online news outlet.  

More than 37,347 Palestinians have been killed, and 85,372 wounded since the start of the war on Gaza. An estimated 10,000 people are missing, likely dead and buried under rubble.

Health officials have said that over 70 percent of the victims are children and women.

Calls to dismantle Israeli government

In Israel, opposition leader Yair Lapid has said Netanyahu should dissolve the Israeli government after he disbanded the war cabinet on Monday. Netanyahu's move came after key opposition figure Benny Gantz quit the six-member cabinet.

Lapid applauded Gantz's decision as "important and correct".

"The time has come to replace this extreme and reckless government with a sane government that will lead to the return of security to the citizens of Israel, to the return of the abducted, to the restoration of Israel's economy and international status," he added.

According to Haaretz, Netanyahu said he will continue to consult a limited "forum" for sensitive decisions.

Meanwhile, anti-government demonstrators have taken to the streets in Israel for the second day, with plans to protest on Monday night in front of Israel’s Knesset, heading towards Netanyahu’s residence.

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