Israel moves deeper into Rafah despite US warning of post-war insurgency

The exodus of Palestinians from Gaza’s last refuge accelerated Sunday as Israeli forces pushed deeper into the southern city of Rafah.

Israel also pounded the territory’s devastated north, where some Hamas militants have regrouped in areas the military said it had cleared months ago.

Rafah is considered Hamas’ last stronghold. Some 300,000 of the more than 1 million civilians sheltering there have fled the city following evacuation orders from Israel, which says it must invade to dismantle Hamas and return scores of hostages taken from Israel in the Oct. 7 attack that sparked the war.

Neighboring Egypt issued its strongest objection yet to the Rafah offensive, saying it intends to formally join South Africa’s case at the International Court of Justice alleging Israel is committing genocide in Gaza — an accusation Israel rejects. The foreign ministry statement cited “the worsening severity and scope of the Israeli attacks against Palestinian civilians.”

United Nations human rights chief Volker Turk said in a statement that he cannot see how a full-scale invasion of Rafah can be reconciled with international humanitarian law.

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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated opposition to a major military assault on Rafah, and told CBS that Israel would “be left holding the bag on an enduring insurgency” without an exit from Gaza and postwar governance plan.

Gaza has been left without a functioning government, leading to a breakdown in public order and allowing Hamas’ armed wing to reconstitute itself even in the hardest-hit areas. On Sunday, Hamas touted attacks against Israeli soldiers in Rafah and near Gaza City.

Israel has yet to offer a detailed plan for postwar governance in Gaza, saying only that it will maintain open-ended security control over the enclave of about 2.3 million Palestinians.

Internationally mediated talks over a cease-fire and hostage release appeared to be at a standstill.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a Memorial Day speech vowed to continue fighting until victory in memory of those killed in the war. But in Tel Aviv, hundreds of protesters stood outside military headquarters and raised candles during a minute-long siren marking the day’s start, demanding an immediate cease-fire deal to return the hostages.

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