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Israeli airstrike on Rafah kills 2 top Hamas commanders, dozens of civilians

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May 26, 2024

An Israeli airstrike on a Hamas compound in the Gaza city of Rafah has killed two top Hamas officials as well as dozens of civilians. 

While the exact number of killed remains unclear at this time, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) confirmed that it struck a Hamas compound in Rafah “in which significant Hamas terrorists were operating.” 

The IDF, citing intelligence indicating Hamas’ use of the area, said it carried out the strike “against legitimate targets under international law.” 

IDF sources told Fox News Digital the strike eliminated Yassin Rabia, the commander of Hamas’ leadership in Judea and Samaria, as well as Khaled Nagar, a senior official in Hamas’ Judea and Samaria wing.

The IDF said that both men had perpetrated numerous terrorist attacks in the early 2000s in which Israeli civilians and soldiers were killed. 

The IDF acknowledged reports that “several civilians in the area were harmed” from the airstrike and a subsequent fire. It said the incident is “under review.” 

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Palestinian health and civil emergency service officials, meanwhile, say the airstrike killed at least 35 Palestinians and wounded dozens more. 

A spokesperson with the Palestinian Red Crescent Society said the death toll was likely to rise as search and rescue efforts continued in Rafah’s Tal al-Sultan neighborhood more than a mile northwest of the city center.

The society asserted that Israel had designated the location been a “humanitarian area.” The neighborhood is not included in areas that Israel’s military ordered evacuated earlier this month.

Footage from the scene showed heavy destruction. 

The airstrike was reported hours after Hamas fired a barrage of rockets from Gaza that set off air raid sirens as far away as Tel Aviv.

There were no immediate reports of casualties in what appeared to be the first long-range rocket attack from Gaza since January. Hamas’ military wing claimed responsibility. Israel’s military said eight projectiles crossed into Israel after being launched from Rafah and “a number” were intercepted, and the launcher was destroyed.

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The war between Israel and Hamas has killed nearly 36,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between civilians and fighters in its count. Israel blames civilian deaths on Hamas because the militants operate in dense, residential areas.

Around 80% of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have fled their homes, severe hunger is widespread and U.N. officials say parts of the territory are experiencing famine.

Hamas triggered the war with its Oct. 7 attack into Israel, in which Palestinian militants killed some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and seized some 250 hostages. Hamas still holds some 100 hostages and the remains of around 30 others after most of the rest were released during a cease-fire last year.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said Israel must take over Rafah to eliminate Hamas’ remaining battalions and achieve “total victory” over the militants, who recently regrouped in other parts of Gaza.

Sunday’s strike came two days after the International Court of Justice ordered Israel to end its military offensive in Rafah, where more than half of Gaza’s population had sought shelter before Israel’s incursion earlier this month. Tens of thousands of people remain in the area while many others have fled.

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