Israel-Gaza latest: Battles rage across Gaza amid upsurge in fighting as Israel targets Rafah – Sky News

Palestinians are marking the 76th anniversary of the Nakba – or catastrophe – in which Israel forced more than 700,000 people from their homes. The Israeli defence minister is due to provide an update on security matters – amid rising tensions in southern Lebanon and an operation in Rafah.
Wednesday 15 May 2024 17:00, UK
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That’s all for our live coverage for the moment. 
Our regular updates will continue tomorrow. 
By John Sparks, international correspondent 
They gathered at a roundabout on the highway heading south in a place called Beit Guvrin.
Some carried flags, others carried weapons, but everyone had the same idea.
A determination to stop humanitarian aid from getting to Gaza.
The food and supplies go straight to Hamas, the protesters claim.
“Don’t give them anything, they’re murderers,” one woman told us.
“We’re fighting Hamas and by giving this food, do you really think it doesn’t go to Hamas?” asked another, disbelievingly.
Their activities have become increasingly effective as protesters target aid shipments originating in neighbouring Jordan on their way to Gaza.
On the highway near Beit Guvrin, we saw the police move in to take positions on the roadside.
But a convoy of 12 lorries, packed with humanitarian supplies, was quickly stopped in its tracks.
Read more from Sparks here
These images show evidence of fierce fighting across the Gaza Strip.
Northern, central and southern Gaza have all seen strikes or ground action in the past few days.
See our 11.36am for more detail on fighting reporting today. 
Benjamin Netanyahu has said that Israel will do “what is required” in Rafah, despite US and international opposition to any such plan. 
“We (Israel and the US) do have a disagreement on Gaza – rather, on Rafah,” he told American broadcaster MSNBC when asked 
“But we have to do what we have to do,” he added.
“And, you know, sometimes you have to… you just have to do what is required to ensure your survival and your future. We cannot continue into the future by having Hamas retake Gaza.”
Reports emerged today suggesting that the US would press forward with its massive $1bn weapons package for Israel, despite Joe Biden indiciating previously he would halt any such deal due to concerns over the Rafah incursion (see 1.38pm post). 
“I hope we can see eye to eye with the United States, we’re talking to them, but ultimately we do what we have to do to protect the life of our nation,” Mr Netanyahu said.
Israel has said that it will destroy four Hamas battalions in the southern city of Rafah. 
Government spokesperson David Mencer also said that the IDF would not necessarily eliminate every Hamas fighter in the Gazan city.

He added that Israel has asked Egypt, which shares a border with Gaza, to open it up to Palestinian civilians who wish to flee the seven-month old war, but that the request has been declined. 

US secretary of of state Antony Blinken has criticised Israel for halting recent progress on the humanitarian front. 
At the very time Israel was taking important steps to improve humanitarian conditions in Gaza, its operation in Rafah has had a “negative impact”, he said. 
He called on Israel to commit to a “concrete” plan to improve humanitarian aid access. 
“We do not support and will not support an Israeli occupation. We also of course, do not support Hamas governance in Gaza… We’ve seen where that’s led all too many times for the people of Gaza and for Israel. And we also can’t have anarchy and a vacuum that’s likely to be filled by chaos,” he said. 

Israel seized the Gazan side of the Rafah border crossing – the main entry point for aid into the territory.
The crossing has remained closed since that seizure, and humanitarian organisations have desperately called on Egypt and Israel to some to some arrangement to re-open it, with both parties blaming the other for delays. 
The Hamas-run health ministry says at least 35,233 Palestinians have now been killed in Israeli strikes on Gaza since 7 October.
The figures reported by the ministry do not differentiate between fighters and civilians.
A further 79,141 have been injured, it added.
For context: While some Israeli officials have sought to cast doubt on fatality figures given out by the Palestinian Health Authority in Gaza, a number of independent groups say they have proved to be largely reliable and broadly in line with those later produced by the UN and Israel itself.
Examination of data from previous Gaza conflicts – the Hamas-run health ministry’s counts compared with the post-war United Nations analysis – shows that the initial data is largely accurate with, at most, a 10-12% discrepancy.
Joe Biden’s administration has informed Congress that it is moving ahead with a $1bn weapons deal for Israel, according to reports.
Officials cited by the Wall Street Journal said the deal would include $700m worth of tank ammunition, $500m in tactical vehicles and $60m in mortar rounds.
However, there are still additional steps before the weapons would be approved and delivered.
This comes despite Joe Biden saying he would pause offensive weapons shipments to Israel if it pressed ahead with offensive action in the southern Gazan city of Rafah.
Israel says it has been carrying out “precise” operations in the city. 
The reports also come just days after a US report found Israel’s use of American-provided weapons in Gaza likely violated international humanitarian law. 
Yesterday, Israel struck a UNRWA school in Gaza, claiming to have killed “more than 10” Hamas fighters sheltering there. 
Authorities say some 20 people died in the strike in Nuseirat – central Gaza. 
This footage shows Palestinians attempting to clear the rubble.  
Turkey’s president has claimed that Israel would seek to occupy parts of Turkey once it concludes its war against Hamas.
“Do not think that Israel will stop in Gaza,” Tayyip Erdogan told his MPs from his party in parliament today.
“Unless it’s stopped… this rogue and terrorist state will set its sights on Anatolia sooner or later,” he said.
The president was referring to the large Turkish peninsula, sometimes known as Asia Minor, that comprises more than half of Turkey’s territory.
Turkey and its president have vehemently opposed Israel since it began its war in Gaza.
Mr Erdogan has refused to call Hamas a terror organisation, and has accused Benjamin Netanyahu’s government of war crimes. 
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