Locals report near-constant explosions and gunfire east and northeast of city, western parts also unsafe due to tank fire; troops uncover large weapons cache in central Gaza City school

Despite U.S. President Joe Biden’s halt on arms shipments to Israel due to its military actions in Rafah, the War Cabinet voted unanimously Thursday night to expand operations in the southern Gazan city.

Cabinet ministers maintain that only an escalation of military pressure on Hamas would push the terrorist group to agree to a hostage deal on terms more favorable to Israel’s terms.

Smoke rises after IDF strikes targets in Rafah
(Photo: AFP)

Hamas has so far refused to release 33 live hostages in the initial phase of a deal, citing uncertainty about having enough women, female soldiers and elderly captives to fulfill that quota. Moreover, Hamas demands an Israeli commitment to end the war in the subsequent phase of the agreement, a stipulation that Israel has rejected.

Meanwhile, IDF tanks seized control of the main thoroughfare that bisects Rafah from east to west on Friday, effectively encircling the entire eastern sector of the Gaza Strip’s southernmost city.

The military said that Givati Brigade soldiers were operating in eastern Rafah to dismantle terrorist sites and secure the area, eliminating dozens of terrorists and discovering weapons and tunnel shafts.

Forces also raided a sector of Rafah from which rockets were launched at the Kerem Shalom border crossing earlier in the week, killing four soldiers. Hamas rockets targeted the border crossing again on Friday.

Smoke rises after IDF strikes targets in Rafah
(Photo: AFP)

Residents in Rafah described near-constant explosions and gunfire east and northeast of the city on Friday, with intense fighting between Israeli forces and Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists.

“It is not safe, all of Rafah isn’t safe as tank shells landed everywhere since yesterday,” Abu Hassan, 50, a resident of Tel al-Sultan west of Rafah told Reuters via a chat app.

“There is an increased movement of people out of Rafah even from the western areas, though they were not designated as red zones by the occupation. The army is targeting all of Rafah not only the east with tank shells and air strikes.”

According to UNICEF, at least 100,000 people have already left Rafah while food supplies were running low and would last only for two more days. The UN organization said that the closure of the Rafah border crossing to Egypt affects fuel supplies humanitarian aid and the movement of people. UNICEF also claimed hospitals would not be able to operate due to lack of fuel.

IDF forces in Gaza
(Photo: IDF)

Meanwhile, the IDF reported on Friday that Israeli forces uncovered a large weapons cache stashed within a school in the Zeitoun district of central Gaza City.

Nahal Brigade troops found AK-47 rifles and magazines, as well as additional combat gear, stored in the classrooms. The discovery was part of a broader counterterrorism operation in the Zeitoun district, with Nahal forces raiding and demolishing sites used for terrorist activities, eliminating terrorists and seizing weapons and intelligence equipment.

As reported by Ynetnews