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Israel presses on with strikes in Gaza after World Court ruling

ISRAELI forces killed more than 30 people in new attacks in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian medics said, the day after judges at the top United Nations court ordered Israel to halt its offensive on the southern Gazan city of Rafah.

Though Israel pressed on with its offensive against the Palestinian militant group Hamas, mediated negotiations between the two sides are due to restart next week, an official with knowledge of the matter said.

The decision on talks was taken after the head of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency met the head of the CIA and the prime minister of Qatar, said the source, declining to be identified by name or nationality given the sensitivity of the matter.

“At the end of the meeting, it was decided that in the coming week negotiations will open based on new proposals led by the mediators, Egypt and Qatar and with active U.S. involvement,” the source said.

Hamas did not immediately comment on the status of the talks.

After more than seven months of war in Gaza, the mediators have struggled to secure a breakthrough, with Israel seeking the release of hostages held by Hamas and Hamas seeking the release of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel and an end to the war.

Fighting has continued in Gaza despite the mediation and despite judges at the top United Nations court ordering Israel on Friday to immediately halt its military assault on Rafah, where it says it is trying to root out Hamas fighters.

READ:  Jerusalem violence leads to Hamas rockets on Israel, nine dead in Gaza

The International Court of Justice, or World Court, has no means to enforce its emergency ruling in a case brought by South Africa accusing Israel of genocide.

But the case was a stark sign of Israel’s global isolation over its campaign in Gaza, particularly since it began its offensive against Rafah this month against the pleas of its closest ally, the United States.

More than 35,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s offensive in Gaza, Gaza’s health ministry says. Israel began the offensive after Hamas-led militants attacked southern Israeli communities on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and seizing more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

FIGHTING IN GAZA

The Israeli military said it had carried out “operational activity in specific areas of Rafah” on Friday, including killing militants, dismantling part of Hamas’ tunnel system, and locating stashes of weapons.

Further north in the coastal territory, where the Israeli military says it is trying to prevent Hamas from reestablishing its hold, Palestinian medical workers reported Israeli airstrikes that they said killed at least 17 people.

A total of 31 Palestinians were killed in the past day in the Gaza Strip, according to local medical officials. They do not distinguish between civilian and militant casualties.

Hamas, which governs Gaza, and the smaller armed group Islamic Jihad said their fighters had fired anti-tank rockets and mortar bombs at Israeli troops in the north.

READ:  Medics fear for patients inside main Gaza hospital, cut off after Israelis arrive

Residents and civil emergency services said Israeli tanks entered deep into the area of Jabalia, destroying dozens of houses, shops, and roads.

The Israeli military said its troops in Jabalia “eliminated dozens of terrorists in close-quarters combat and aerial strikes.”

Palestinian medical teams were unable to reach the area, where they believed more people were killed.

Israel has said it is carrying out operations in Rafah, despite growing international opposition, to remove Hamas battalions holed up there. Some of its hostages are also being held there, it says.

The city had become a refuge for Gazans fleeing fighting elsewhere in the enclave. After Rafah became a target as well, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled the city.

“The occupation forces keep the city under bombing, not only east where they invaded but at the centre and the western sides, they want to scare people to leave the whole city,” said one Rafah resident, who asked not to be named.

So far, fighting has taken place on Rafah’s southern edge and eastern districts, away from the most populated areas. The United States has called on Israel not to enter more central neighbourhoods, saying Israel has yet to show a credible plan for how this can be done without causing mass casualties.

By NIDAL AL-MUGHRABI

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