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War on Gaza: Hamas steps up fighting as aid runs out under Israeli blockade

UN agencies 'scrape bottom of the barrel' while humanitarian operations face imminent closure due to fuel shortages
A man looks on as thick, black smoke rises from a fire in a building caused by Israeli bombardment in Rafah on 10 May 2024 (AFP)
A man looks on as smoke rises from a fire caused by Israeli bombardment in Rafah on 10 May 2024 (AFP)

The armed wing of Palestinian group Hamas stepped up fighting with invading Israeli troops in Rafah and Gaza City on Friday, killing at least four soldiers and wounding others. 

In a series of battlefield updates, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades said it ambushed Israeli troops, attacked them with anti-armour missiles and several short-range rockets. 

The heavy fighting comes amid intensifying Israeli artillery bombardment and air strikes across the Gaza Strip. 

According to Palestinian reports, shelling has hit Beit Lahia in the north, Gaza City, Maghazi refugee camp and al-Mughraqa town in the central district, Abasan in Khan Younis, and Rafah. 

Many have been reported killed and wounded, though the Gaza health ministry has yet to provide a death toll update. 

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The Qassam Brigades said it killed and wounded several Israeli soldiers in a “complex and simultaneous” operation in eastern Rafah. 

The armed group said a building containing Israeli troops was hit with a shoulder-launched missile before infantry and an armoured personnel carrier nearby were also struck. 

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Other attacks across Rafah included blowing up a minefield, firing at three tanks, and bombing the Kerem Shalom and Sufa military sites with rockets and mortar bombs, according to the Qassam Brigades. 

Similarly intense fighting was reported in the Zeitoun neighbourhood south of Gaza City, where the Israeli military announced its third ground assault there earlier this week. 

Other armed groups in Gaza also said they were clashing with Israeli troops in Rafah's east and Zeitoun. 

Hebrew media said military helicopters were spotted transporting casualties from Gaza to Israeli hospitals on Friday amid heavy fighting and a “complicated incident”, without elaborating. 

The Israeli military said earlier in the morning that troops were engaged in “close-quarters combat” in Rafah and that they killed “several gunmen”. 

It later said four soldiers were killed in the Zeitoun neighbourhood alone by an explosive device. 

Palestinian groups did not immediately comment on reports of casualties.

Middle East Eye could not independently verify the announcements made by either side. 

Separately, the Israeli military said 12 Israeli soldiers were evacuated for treatment after being stung by wasps in the southern Gaza Strip. 

Crossings closed 

Meanwhile, the Palestinian border and crossing authority in Gaza denied US claims that the Kerem Shalom crossing, which lies between the enclave and Israel, has been open for aid. 

In a statement on Thursday, it said both the Kerem Shalom and Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt, which was captured by Israeli forces from the Palestinian side earlier this week, remain shut. 

It added that no aid has entered the Gaza Strip since Tuesday, including vital fuel supplies and medicine. 

The continued closure of the crossings has raised alarm among aid workers over the humanitarian repercussions. 

Aid operations could shut within days due to dwindling food and fuel stocks, United Nations aid agencies said on Friday.

The situation has reached "even more unprecedented levels of emergency," said Georgios Petropoulos, the head of the Gaza sub-office of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

'For five days, no fuel and virtually no humanitarian aid entered the Gaza Strip, and we are scraping the bottom of the barrel'

- Hamish Young, UN Gaza emergency coordinator

Hamish Young, senior emergency coordinator in the Gaza Strip for the UN's children's agency, said at a virtual briefing: "For five days, no fuel and virtually no humanitarian aid entered the Gaza Strip, and we are scraping the bottom of the barrel.

"This is already a huge issue for the population and for all humanitarian actors but in a matter of days, if not corrected, the lack of fuel could grind humanitarian operations to a halt," he added.

The administration of al-Aqsa Martyrs hospital said it would cease operations within 48 hours if it doesn't receive more fuel. 

The hospital in central Gaza's Deir al-Balah is the last remaining big medical facility in the Gaza Strip after al-Shifa and Nasser hospitals were destroyed by Israel. 

“We urge UN bodies and international institutions to supply fuel to the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital as soon as possible before it is too late,” the hospital said in a statement. 

“We call for immediate and urgent intervention to supply all hospitals with fuel and to rehabilitate and restore them before a humanitarian disaster occurs that takes out the lives of thousands of people.” 

UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths said on Thursday that civilians in Gaza were “being starved and killed” while aid agencies were “prevented from helping them”.

“Our supplies are stuck. Our teams are stuck,” he posted on X. 

”This is Gaza today, even after 7 months of horrors.”

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