La Gaceta De Mexico - Fierce fighting rocks Gaza after US warning of anarchy, insurgency

Fierce fighting rocks Gaza after US warning of anarchy, insurgency

Fierce fighting rocks Gaza after US warning of anarchy, insurgency

Israel battled Hamas in Gaza on Monday, including in far-southern Rafah, despite US warnings against a full-scale invasion of the crowded city and of the threat from post-war anarchy or insurgency.

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Clashes also raged in northern and central Gaza as Israel marked a sombre Memorial Day, followed by Independence Day from Monday night, more than seven months into the war sparked by Hamas's October 7 attack on Israel.

Israelis marked a moment's silence and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed that "our war of independence is not over yet. It continues even today... We are determined to win this struggle."

AFP correspondents in Gaza reported helicopter strikes and heavy artillery shelling in the east of Rafah, as well as battles in northern Gaza's Jabalia refugee camp and Gaza City's Zeitun neighbourhood.

Israel last week defied a chorus of warnings -- including from top ally Washington which paused a shipment of bombs -- and sent tanks and troops into the east of Rafah to pursue militants.

The city on the Egyptian border had been sheltering 1.4 million Palestinians, according to the United Nations, but Israel's military operation sparked an exodus of nearly 360,000 people from Rafah so far, said the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA).

- Warning of Hamas resurgence -

The agency warned that "no place is safe" in the territory, much of which has been reduced to a grey landscape of rubble.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday that Washington had not seen any credible Israeli plan to protect civilians in Rafah, and that "we also haven't seen a plan for what happens the day after this war in Gaza ends".

"Israel's on the trajectory, potentially, to inherit an insurgency with many armed Hamas left or, if it leaves, a vacuum filled by chaos, filled by anarchy and probably refilled by Hamas," he told NBC.

Fighting has raged in northern Gaza where -- months after Israel declared Hamas's command structure had been dismantled -- an Israeli army spokesman said there were "attempts by Hamas to rebuild its military capabilities".

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said late on Monday that since the evacuation orders were issued on Saturday for northern Gaza, around 100,000 people have been displaced from there.

"The army threw leaflets and sent a message on mobile phones warning everyone to leave Jabalia" refugee camp, said one displaced Palestinian, Umm Adi Nassar, after arriving in nearby Gaza City.

- Moment of silence -

Hamas's armed wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, said that its militants were engaged in ground battles in Rafah and Jabalia.

The UN late Monday said a member of its security services was killed and another injured "when their UN vehicle was struck" on the way to the European Hospital in Rafah.

It was "the first international casualty" for the UN, during the Gaza war in which about 190 Palestinian UN employees have been killed, a spokesperson said.

A strike on a house in Rafah killed at least four people overnight Sunday-Monday, the city's Kuwaiti hospital said earlier.

Rafah residents on Monday received additional evacuation orders through phone calls and text messages, prompting yet more people to leave their homes, witnesses said.

While Israel has vowed to destroy remaining Hamas forces in Rafah, The New York Times cited unnamed US officials as saying that both US and Israeli intelligence suggested the group's Gaza leader Yahya Sinwar was not hiding there.

He "most likely never left the tunnel network" under Khan Yunis city, the newspaper said.

UN chief Antonio Guterres urged "an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, the unconditional release of all hostages and an immediate surge in humanitarian aid" into Gaza.

Sirens sounded across Israel at 11:00 am (0800 GMT), marking Memorial Day and prompting a two-minute silence in honour of fallen soldiers and civilian victims of attacks.

This year, "it's different", said Yehoshua Shani, 61, whose son Uri was killed in a rocket strike after fighting on October 7.

At sunset on Monday, Memorial Day gave way to the country's 76th Independence Day when Israelis celebrate the creation of their state in 1948.

Palestinians remember Israel's establishment as the "Nakba", or catastrophe, when hundreds of thousands were expelled or pushed out of their homes, and commemorate it annually on May 15.

- 'We wish for death' -

The bloodiest ever Gaza war began with Hamas's October 7 attack on Israel, which resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.

Militants also seized hostages, of whom Israel estimates 128 remain in Gaza, including 36 the military says are dead.

Israel's bombardment and offensive in Gaza have killed at least 35,091 people, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.

Netanyahu said on a podcast that almost half of those killed are Hamas fighters, playing down a civilian toll that has sparked global outrage.

Israel's military says 272 soldiers have been killed in the Gaza campaign since ground operations began on October 27.

The war has displaced most Gazans, many multiple times.

Umm Mohammed al-Mughayyir, who has had to move her family seven times to escape the fighting, said: "We have reached a point where we wish for death."

Hisham Adwan, spokesman for the Gaza crossings authority, told AFP on Sunday the Rafah border point with Egypt has remained closed since Israeli troops seized its Palestinian side last Tuesday, "preventing the entry of humanitarian aid".

The health ministry said Monday that Gaza's health system was "hours away" from collapse after fighting has blocked fuel shipments.

Israel's military said Sunday it had opened a new border crossing into northern Gaza as "part of the effort to increase aid routes".