Israeli Military Confirms Operations In Central Rafah Day After Hamas' 'Complete Agreement' Announcement

The Israeli military said that its troops in central Rafah had uncovered Hamas rocket launchers and tunnels and dismantled a weapons storage city of the group.

Displaced Palestinians arriving in central Gaza after fleeing Rafah. Photo: AP

The Israeli military on Friday confirmed that its forces are operating in central Rafah amid its expanding offensive in the southern Gaza city.

Israel launched what it called a limited incursion into Rafah on May 6, leading to a larger part of Southern Gaza being cut off from aid. Since then over 1 million Palestinians, already displaced, have fled the city.

However, US President Joe Biden had said that Israel has not crossed the "red lines" of a full-fledged invasion that he has urged them against.

In its statement, the Israeli military said that its troops in central Rafah had uncovered Hamas rocket launchers and tunnels and dismantled a weapons storage city of the group.

Though it wasn't specified as to where in central Rafah were the operations taking place, the military's previous statements and subsequent witness reports have pointed to raids in the Shaboura refugee camp and other sites near the city centre, The Associated Press reported.

Earlier this week, Israeli troops had moved into Rafah's western region of Tel al-Sultan, where witness reports suggested heavy clash between the military and Hamas militants.

Notably, this comes a day after the Palestinian group Hamas announced that it was ready to reach a "complete agreement" including a comprehensive hostages/prisoners exchange deal if Israel "stops its war and aggression against people in Gaza".

Hamas, in a statement on Thursday, said it has informed ceasefire talks mediators - Qatar, Egypt, and the United States - of its readiness to negotiate a complete agreement if Israel stops its the war.

For the first weeks, the Israeli assault focused on Rafah's eastern districts and in areas close to the border with Egypt. They seized Rafah crossing into Egypt on the first day of its offensive and since has claimed control over the Philadelphia Corridor.

According to Israel, the offensive in Rafah is vital to uprooting Hamas fighters in its military's campaign to destroy the group after the October 7 attack on southern Israel.

Earlier this week, Palestinian health workers reported that Israeli airstrikes killed at least 35 individuals, with tents for displaced people in Rafah being among the targets.

Gaza's Health Ministry had noted that the majority of the casualties are women and children, with scores more left wounded in the wake of the attacks.

It is noteworthy that last week, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) had ordered Israel to immediately halt its military offensive in Rafah, in the Gaza Strip.

“Israel must immediately halt its military offensive and any other action in Rafah which may inflict on the Palestinian group in Gaza conditions of life that could bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part,” Judge Nawaf Salam, president of the ICJ had said.

The court described the humanitarian situation in Rafah as "disastrous" and warned that it would only worsen if Israel continued its military operations.

(With AP inputs)