‘Highest in 24-hour period’: Palestinian death toll in hostage rescue raid rises to 274, Gaza ministry says

NEW DELHI: Israeli forces on Sunday launched a new assault on central Gaza, a day after a hostage rescue operation in Rafah that resulted in the deaths of 274 Palestinians, and tanks advanced into further areas of Rafah, aiming to isolate a section of the southern city, according to residents and Hamas media.
Highest in 24-hour period
Palestinian medics reported that the death toll from Saturday’s operation was the highest over a 24-hour period in the Gaza war for months, with many casualties being women and children.
Gaza’s health ministry updated the figures on Sunday, saying that 274 Palestinians were killed, an increase from the initially reported 210, and 698 were injured during the Israeli special forces’ raid on the densely populated Al-Nuseirat camp to rescue four hostages held by Hamas militants since October.
The Israeli military said that the death of a special forces officer during exchanges of fire with militants emerging from residential blocks. They estimated that “under 100” Palestinians were killed but did not specify the number of militants or civilians among them.
Airstrike in central Gaza Strip
Israeli airstrike on a house in Al-Bureij, central Gaza Strip on Sunday killed three Palestinians and injured several others. Tanks also shelled parts of the nearby Al-Maghazi and Al-Nuseirat refugee camps, which are densely populated and have a long history.
The Israeli military said that its forces were continuing operations east of Bureij and Deir al-Balah, a city in central Gaza, targeting and killing several Palestinian gunmen and destroying militant infrastructure.
‘Millions displaced’
Since May, Israeli forces have been conducting operations in Rafah, which they describe as a mission to wipe out Hamas’ last intact combat units after eight months of war. During this time, Israeli forces have heavily bombed much of Gaza, reducing it to rubble while facing fierce resistance.
Israeli tank forces have captured the entire border strip between Gaza and Egypt, running through Rafah to the Mediterranean coast, and have invaded several districts of the city. As a result, approximately one million displaced people who had been seeking shelter in Rafah have been forced to flee to other areas.
Tanks advances in Rafah
Israeli tanks advanced into two new districts in Rafah on Sunday, apparently aiming to complete the encirclement of the entire eastern side of the city. This move triggered clashes with entrenched Hamas-led armed groups, according to residents trapped in their homes.
As of June 5, UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, reported that all but around 100,000 displaced people who had sought refuge in eastern Rafah after fleeing Israeli offensives further north in Gaza had left.
“All UNRWA shelters in Rafah have been vacated. Many of the people who were based in Rafah have fled up the coast seeking safer locations in both Khan Younis and the middle area (of Gaza),” UNRWA said in a statement.
Discovered terror tunnel
Palestinian medics reported that an Israeli airstrike on a house in Tel Al-Sultan, western Rafah, resulted in the death of two people. The Israeli military stated that troops from its 162nd division were conducting raids in certain districts of Rafah, where they had discovered “numerous additional terror tunnel shafts, mortars, and (other) weapons” belonging to Palestinian Islamist militants.
The war was precipitated by Hamas with a swift cross-border attack into Israel on Oct. 7, resulting in the death of around 1,200 people and the capture of over 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies. Approximately half of the hostages were released during a short-lived November truce.
Palestinian death toll
Israel’s subsequent air and ground war in Gaza has claimed the lives of at least 37,084 Palestinians, according to the Sunday update from the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory. The ministry warns that thousands more dead are feared to be buried under the rubble.
‘All-out war in broader Middle East’
Efforts by the United States and regional countries to negotiate a deal that would secure the release of all remaining hostages in exchange for a ceasefire have repeatedly faltered due to Israeli and Hamas intransigence over the terms for ending the war.
The conflict in Gaza has destabilised the broader Middle East, drawing in Hamas’ primary supporter, Iran, and its Lebanese ally, Hezbollah, which has been engaged in clashes with Israel along its northern border for months, raising concerns about an all-out war.
(With inputs from agencies)

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