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Israel launches offensive in northern Gaza and bombs Rafah without advancing

Israeli tanks advanced into the heart of Jabalia in northern Gaza on Thursday, facing anti-tank rockets and mortar shells from fighters massed there, while in the south, its forces shelled Rafah without advancing, residents said.

The slow progress of the Israeli offensive, more than seven months after it was prompted by a deadly Hamas cross-border attack, has highlighted the difficulty of achieving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's goal of eradicating the Palestinian group.

The armed wings of Hamas and its ally, Islamic Jihad, have been able to fight throughout the Gaza Strip, using fortified tunnels to carry out attacks both in the north – the focus of Israel's initial invasion – and on new battlefields, like Rafah.

Israel says four Hamas battalions are now in Rafah, along with hostages kidnapped during the Oct. 7 attack, but faces pressure from the United States, Europe and the United Nations not to invade the city, where hundreds of thousands of civilians live. displaced Palestinians are sheltered.

“The operation in Rafah is still limited in terms of space and targets,” military spokesman Lt. Col. Nadav Shoshani said on Thursday, adding that the strikes were based on specific information about militant activity.

More than 35,000 Gazans have been killed, according to health authorities in the Hamas-run coastal enclave, and malnutrition is widespread while international aid efforts are stymied by violence.

Israel says it needs to eliminate Hamas for its own protection, following the death of 1,200 people on October 7, and to free the 128 hostages still held, out of a total of 253 kidnapped by the militants, according to its records.

The United States anchored a temporary floating pier off a Gaza beach on Thursday to boost aid deliveries, but it was still unclear how it would be distributed given challenges that have plagued the United Nations and aid groups for months.

Israel declared an end to major operations in northern Gaza months ago, while pledging to return to prevent Hamas' regrouping.

On Thursday, about a week after their return, Israeli tanks heavily shelled the main market in the heart of Jabalia, a decades-old refugee camp, and several shops were set on fire, residents and Hamas media said.

Earlier, Hamas' armed wing said its fighters in Jabalia had destroyed an Israeli troop transport vehicle with a locally-made Al-Yassin 105 anti-tank rocket, leaving crew members dead and injured. Reuters was unable to immediately verify the statement and there was no immediate comment from Israel.

“They are bombing like crazy, destroying the houses and the main market in the camp,” one of the camp residents told Reuters via a chat app.

“It appears they are acting this way because of the resistance operations that burned their soldiers,” he added, declining to give a name for fear of reprisals.

Source: CNN Brasil

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