Nearly 800,000 Palestinians have fled Rafah since Israeli ground operation began - Unrwa

Israel forces push into new parts of northern Gaza as bombing continues in Rafah

Nearly 800,000 Palestinians have evacuated Rafah since Israel launched a ground operation in the southern Gazan city on May 6th, the head of Unrwa, the UN agency providing food, shelter, education and welfare for Palestinian refugees, said on Saturday.

It comes as the first distribution of badly needed aid is expected to begin this weekend after rolling off a newly built US pier off the coast of Gaza. It is expected as aid workers warn much more access is needed to the besieged territory where famine might be under way.

On Saturday, Israel’s forces took over some ground in Rafah, which had been sheltering more than one million displaced Gazans. Israel says it must capture Rafah to destroy Hamas and ensure the country’s security.

Residents in Rafah said Israeli tanks thrust into some of the eastern suburbs and clashed with Palestinian fighters there, while Israeli bombing from the air and ground persisted all night.


“Once again, nearly half of the population of Rafah or 800,000 people are on the road, having been forced to flee since the Israeli Forces started the military operation in the area on 6 May,” Unrwa chief Philippe Lazzarini said in a post on X.

He added: “The situation is again being made far worse by the lack of aid and basic humanitarian supplies. The humanitarian community does not have any more supplies to give out, including food and other basic items.  The key crossings into Gaza remain closed or unsafe to access as they are located near or in combat zones.”

Mr said that while reports on first shipments arriving at the new floating dock “are welcome”, “land routes remain the most viable, effective, efficient and safest aid delivery method”.

“The crossings must reopen and be safe to access.  Without the reopening of these routes, the deprivation of assistance and catastrophic humanitarian conditions will persist,” he said.

The Israeli blockade of Gaza began after Hamas’s attack on southern Israel on October 7th that killed 1,200 people and took 250 others hostage. Israel says about 100 hostages are still captive in Gaza, along with the bodies of around 30 more.

In what Israeli media said was the result of intelligence gleaned during the latest incursions, the military announced on Saturday the recovery of the body of a man who was among the 250 hostages seized by Hamas.

Ron Binyamin’s remains were located along with those of three other slain hostages whose repatriation was announced on Friday, the military said without providing further details. There was no immediate comment from Hamas.

Meanwhile, Israeli troops and tanks pushed into parts of a congested northern Gaza Strip district on Saturday that they had previously skirted in the more than seven-month-old war, killing and wounding dozens of Palestinians, medics and residents said.

One site has been Jabalia, the largest of Gaza Strip’s eight historic refugee camps. On Saturday, troops and tanks edged into streets so far spared the ground offensive, residents said. In one strike, medics said 15 Palestinians were killed and dozens wounded.

The Gaza ministry for health and the Civil Emergency Service said teams received dozens of calls about possible casualties but were unable to carry out any searches because of the ongoing ground offensive and the aerial bombardment.

“Today is the most difficult in terms of the occupation bombardment, air strikes and tank shelling have going on almost non-stop,” said one resident in Jabalia, Ibrahim Khaled, via a chat app.

“We know of dozens of people, martyrs [killed] and wounded, but no ambulance vehicle can get into the area.”

The Israeli military said forces have continued to operate in areas across the Gaza Strip including Jabalia and Rafah, carrying out what it called “precise operations against terrorists and infrastructure”.

“The IAF [air force)]continues to operate in the Gaza Strip, and struck over 70 terror targets during the past day, including weapons storage facilities, military infrastructure sites, terrorists who posed a threat to IDF troops, and military compounds,” the military said in a statement.

Armed wings of Hamas, the Islamic Jihad, and Fatah said fighters attacked Israeli forces in Jabalia and Rafah with anti-tank rockets, mortar bombs, and explosive devices already planted in some of the roads, killing and wounding many soldiers.

Israel’s military said 281 soldiers have been killed in fighting since the first ground incursions in Gaza on October 20th. – Wires