Israel denies Hamas has captured several of its soldiers as Rafah operation resumes

Heavy fighting has been reported across Gaza on Sunday despite UN demands for Israel to halt operations

Israeli soldiers during military operations in the Gaza Strip. AFP
Powered by automated translation

Live updates: Follow the latest on Israel-Gaza

Israel denied a Hamas claim on Sunday that several of its soldiers were killed and captured during a gun battle in a tunnel operated by the group.

The claim relates to heavy fighting in Jabalia, a refugee camp which has been struck by heavy air strikes, in northern Gaza.

Israeli forces returned to the area earlier this month, despite heavy fighting there in November, leading critics to say there was no military strategy.

Hamas published a video on Saturday of a bloodied body, which they claimed was that of an Israeli soldier.

“Our fighters lured a Zionist force into an ambush inside a tunnel … The fighters withdrew after they left all members of the force dead, wounded, and captured,” Abu Ubaida, the spokesman for Ezzedine Al Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, said on Sunday.

Israel denied that any more of its soldiers had been taken captive by the group.

A military statement said that “there is no incident in which a soldier was abducted”.

Heavy fighting continued in southern Gaza, Israeli planes and artillery pounded Rafah, despite an order by the top UN court to halt its military offensive in the southern city on Egypt's border.

The army also carried out strikes throughout the Gaza Strip on Saturday and into Sunday morning as fighting raged between the army and Palestinian militants. The fighting in Rafah had shut down aid flows there, blocking supplies from a critical supply hub in Egypt, as Gazans continue to go hungry.

On Sunday, about 200 aid trucks are expected to enter Gaza from Egypt, according to Egyptian officials.

Khaled Zayed, the head of the Egyptian Red Crescent Society in North Sinai said that the aid trucks are expected to go through the Karam Abu Salem crossing.

According to Egyptian media, the lorries are carrying fuel. Al Qahera News, did not specify how many lorries had made their way through inspection into besieged Gaza but said “four fuel trucks” had already crossed and were heading to hospitals.

The Karam Abu Salem crossing is one of two located at the borders of Egypt. Rafah crossing is the second but has been closed since the Israeli military seized control of it on May 6.

Egypt has refused to co-ordinate aid through Rafah as long as Israeli troops control the Palestinian side.

On Friday, Cairo agreed to allow UN-provided humanitarian aid to flow into Gaza temporarily through Kerem Shalom until legal mechanisms are in place to reopen the Rafah border crossing from the Palestinian side.

All aid from Egypt is inspected by Israeli authorities – a notoriously slow process – before being distributed by the UN.

Updated: May 26, 2024, 8:43 AM