Witnesses tell AFP Israel tanks stationed in Rafah city centre

RAFAH – Witnesses told AFP that Israeli tanks were stationed in the centre of Gaza’s southern city of Rafah on Tuesday, after intense fighting between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants in recent weeks.

Israeli tanks were “stationed on the Al-Awda roundabout in the centre of the city of Rafah”, said Yasser Adwan, 22.

A security source from Rafah confirmed tanks were in the city centre.

Rafah resident Abdel Khatib, 40, said he had seen Israeli tanks “stationed near Al-Awda mosque in the centre of Rafah”.

“People are currently inside their homes because anyone who moves is being shot at by Israeli drones.”

Another resident, Muhammad al-Shaer, 36, said his home in Rafah’s city centre had come under shelling from tanks.

Residents said clashes had taken place at the roundabout between Israeli troops and militants.

Israel launched its controversial assault on Rafah earlier this month, dismissing concerns for the safety of the 1.4 million Palestinian civilians then sheltering in the city.

Around one million civilians have since fled the city on orders from the Israeli military, the UN Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA) reported Tuesday.

Israeli forces also seized the Palestinian side of the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza.

The Gaza war was sparked by Hamas’s October 7 attack on southern Israel, which resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.

Militants also took 252 hostages, 121 of whom remain in Gaza, including 37 the army says are dead.

Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 36,096 people in Gaza, mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry. –AFP