By Nidal al-Mughrabi

CAIRO (Reuters) – An Israeli air strike at a medical clinic in Gaza City killed the director of Gaza’s Ambulance and Emergency Department, the enclave’s health ministry said, while Israel’s military said the strike had killed a senior Hamas armed commander.

The health ministry said the killing of Hani al-Jaafarawi brought the number of medical staff killed by Israeli fire since Oct 7 to 500. At least 300 others have so far been detained.

In a statement, the Israeli military said the strike targeted Mohammad Salah, who it said was responsible for developing Hamas weaponry.

“Salah was part of a project to develop strategic weaponry for the Hamas terrorist organisation, and he commanded a number of Hamas terrorist squads that worked on developing weapons,” it said.

More than eight months into the fighting, international mediation backed by the United States has so far failed to bring a ceasefire agreement. Hamas says any agreement must bring an end the war, while Israel says it will agree only temporary pauses in fighting until Hamas is eradicated.

In Rafah, near the border with Egypt, Israeli forces which took control of the eastern, southern, and central parts of the city pursued their raid into the western and northern areas, said residents, describing heavy fighting.

On Sunday, residents had said Israeli tanks had advanced to the edge of the Mawasi displaced persons’ camp in the northwest of Rafah, forcing many families to leave northward to Khan Younis and to Deir Al-Balah in central Gaza, the only city in the enclave where tanks have not yet invaded.

“The situation in Tel Al-Sultan, in western Rafah, remains very dangerous. Drones and Israeli snipers are hunting people who try to check on their houses, and tanks continue to take over areas overseeing Al-Mawasi further west,” said Bassam, a resident of Rafah.

“We know about people killed in the streets and we know and we see that dozens of houses had been destroyed by the occupation,” he told Reuters via a chat app.

Israel denies targeting civilians and blames Hamas for provoking civilian casualties by fighting among them, which Hamas denies.

The Israeli military said forces continued “intelligence-based targeted operations” in Rafah, locating weapons and rocket launchers and killing militants “who posed threats to them.”

In the north of the enclave, where Israel had said its forces completed operations months ago, residents said tanks had pushed back into Gaza City’s Zeitoun suburb and were pounding several areas there.

Israel’s ground and air campaign in Gaza was triggered when Hamas-led militants stormed into southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and seizing more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

The Israeli offensive in retaliation has killed almost 37,600 people, according to Palestinian health authorities, and has left Gaza in ruins.

Since early May, fighting has focused on Rafah, on Gaza’s southern edge where around half of the enclave’s 2.3 million people had been sheltering after fleeing other areas.

Netanyahu said the phase of intense fighting against Hamas would end “very soon”, but that the war would not end until the Islamist group no longer controls the Palestinian enclave.

In an interview with Israel’s channel 14, he said forces based in Gaza would be freed to move to the north, where Israel has warned of a potential full-blown war against Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement, which has struck the border region in what it says is solidarity with the Palestinians.

“After the intense phase is finished, we will have the possibility to move part of the forces north. And we will do this,” Netanyahu said in an interview with Israel’s Channel 14.

(Reporting and writing by Nidal al-Mughrabi; Additional reporting by Maayan Lubell in Jerusalem; Editing by Peter Graff)

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