Tent compound rises in southern Gaza as Israel prepares for Rafah offensive

Satellite photos analysed by The Associated Press appear to show a new compound of tents being built near Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip as the Israeli military continues to signal it plans an offensive on the city of Rafah.

Khan Younis has been targeted by repeated Israeli military operations over recent weeks.

Israel has said it plans to evacuate civilians from Rafah during an anticipated offensive on the southern city, where hundreds of thousands of people have taken refuge during the war, now in its seventh month.

The military said it was not involved in the tent construction.

On Monday, a failed rocket strike was launched at a base housing US-led coalition forces at Rumalyn, Syria, marking the first time since February 4 that Iranian-backed militias have attacked a US facility in Iraq or Syria, a US defence official said.

No personnel were injured in the attack, and no group has claimed responsibility.

The conflict has led to regional unrest, pitting Israel and the US against Iran and allied militant groups across the Middle East. Israel and Iran traded fire directly this month, raising fears of all-out regional war.

The Israel-Hamas war was sparked by the October 7 raid into southern Israel in which the militants killed around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducted around 250 hostages.

Israel says the militants are still holding around 100 hostages and the remains of more than 30 others.

A spokesman for Hamas’s armed wing says time is running out for reaching a deal to release hostages held by the militant group.

The spokesman, known as Abu Obeida, said in a video statement carried by the Al Jazeera network on Tuesday that “the ball is in the court” of Israel, but that “time grows short and the opportunities are dwindling”.

He suggested the hostages could meet the same fate as Ron Arad. The Israeli airman is still missing after being captured by militants in Lebanon in 1986.

Abu Obeida struck a defiant tone in the video statement, saying “the enemy has not achieved anything in the last 200 days except for massacres, destruction and killing”.

Meanwhile, the United Nations’ top human rights official says he is “horrified” by the destruction of two major hospitals raided by Israeli troops in Gaza.

Volker Turk also expressed concern about the reported discovery of mass graves in and around the Shifa medical centre in Gaza City and Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, he called for independent and transparent investigations into the deaths, saying that “given the prevailing climate of impunity, this should include international investigators”.

The Israeli military said its forces were searching for the remains of hostages captured by Hamas during its October 7 attack when they exhumed bodies that Palestinians had buried. The military said bodies were examined in a respectful manner and returned to their place.

The Israeli military says it killed or detained hundreds of militants who had taken shelter inside the two hospital complexes, claims that could not be independently verified.

Palestinian health officials say the raids have destroyed Gaza’s health sector as it deals with the mounting toll from more than six months of war.

Sourse: breakingnews.ie

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