Palestinians report heavy shelling in the Rafah area

Palestinian residents and media reported a night of heavy shelling in the Rafah area of ​​southern Gaza on Thursday, while the Israeli army said its forces continued to operate “in face-to-face clashes” with militants of Hamas there.

Saeed Lulu, a 37-year-old taking refuge in the nearby Al-Mawasi area – parts of which Israel has designated a “humanitarian zone” for people fleeing Rafah – said he heard strikes between midnight and 6 a.m. . he said he was not aware of any casualties. The attacks appeared to have targeted Al-Mawasi's southwestern border, he said.

“We are very worried,” Mr. Lulu said. “This is supposed to be a safe area and we have nowhere else to go if they attack here,” he added.

The location of the strikes could not be independently verified.

Wafa, the Palestinian Authority's official news agency, reported Thursday that the Israeli military has intensified rocket and artillery bombardment “by air, land and sea” on Al-Mawasi.

The Israeli military quickly denied Wafa's reports and said in a statement published on the Telegram messaging app that no Israeli military attack “took place in the Al-Mawasi humanitarian area.”

In a later statement, the army said its forces were continuing operations in Rafah, where they were engaged in “face-to-face encounters” with Hamas fighters.

Fighting in Rafah has raged on and off since early May, when Israeli soldiers began their advance into the heart of Rafah in what Israel called an essential step to defeat the remaining Hamas battalions and dismantle the group's infrastructure.

The population of Al-Mawasi has grown enormously as hundreds of thousands of people have heeded Israel's warnings to leave Rafah. Israel has insisted it has not attacked areas it has designated as humanitarian zones, but many Gazans are unclear about their exact location and remain in suspense.

Israel has posted on social media and dropped leaflets over Gaza to identify areas. But aid workers have noted how difficult it is for people in Gaza to determine whether they are in an area designated as safe, as many have limited access to cell phones or the Internet.

Some civilians said they had never seen any leaflets, while others said the signs, which include a numbering system used by the Israeli army to describe different areas, confused them.

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