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Fri. May 17th, 2024

Israel said Thursday that five of its troops were killed by friendly fire in a Gaza battle, as a rift emerged inside the war cabinet on how the Palestinian territory should be ruled in future.

More than seven months into the conflict sparked by Hamas’s October 7 attack, Israeli forces were fighting Palestinian militants in Gaza’s far-southern Rafah and in new flashpoints in northern and central areas of the besieged territory.

The army said that the five soldiers were killed when two Israeli tanks mistakenly fired shells at the building they were in during clashes in the northern Jabalia refuge camp on Wednesday.

“Five soldiers of the 202nd Paratrooper Battalion were killed last night in a mass casualty incident as a result of fire by our forces,” the military said, adding that seven other troops were wounded.

Heavy fighting has flared again in the north following army warnings of “attempts by Hamas to rebuild its military capabilities” months after Israel had declared local militant command structures dismantled.

AFP reporters, witnesses and medics said Thursday that Israeli warplanes again targeted areas across Gaza overnight, including in Gaza City and its southern Zeitun area, Jabalia and the Nuseirat refugee camp.

The military’s main focus has been Rafah near the Egyptian border, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered an offensive in defiance of US warnings that more than a million civilians sheltering there could be caught in the crossfire.

Netanyahu on Wednesday argued that “we have to do what we have to do” and insisted that mass evacuations there had averted a much-feared “humanitarian catastrophe”.

Washington — long Israel’s main political, diplomatic and military supporter — has repeatedly urged its ally to take greater steps to protect and aid civilians, and to make a post-war plan for Gaza to avoid being mired in a long counter-insurgency campaign.

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