main piccx-1716307316186
Palestinians evacuate Kamal Adwan hospital following an Israeli strike, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip, May 21, 2024. Image Credit: REUTERS

RAFAH, Palestinian Territories: Israeli forces battled Hamas in Gaza on Tuesday after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu angrily dismissed a bid for an international arrest warrant against him on charges of war crimes in the Palestinian territory.

US President Joe Biden backed Netanyahu in condemning as “outrageous” the bid by the International Criminal Court’s prosecutor who also sought warrants against leaders of Palestinian militant group Hamas.

Get exclusive content with Gulf News WhatsApp channel

Israel’s military reported ground combat and air strikes on 70 targets in Gaza in 24 hours, while its forces were also engaged in deadly clashes in the other major Palestinian territory, the occupied West Bank.

At least seven Palestinians were killed in the northern city of Jenin, the Ramallah-based health ministry said, as the army said it was “fighting armed men” in a pre-dawn “counterterrorism operation”.

Also read

Palestinian official news agency Wafa said a hospital surgeon, a school teacher and a student were among those killed in Jenin, a stronghold of Palestinian militant groups.

The bloodiest ever Gaza war started after Hamas’s October 7 attack which sparked an Israeli retaliation that has brought a spiralling civilian death toll and levelled vast swathes of Gaza.

“We are running out of words to describe what is happening in Gaza,” Edem Wosornu of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs told a Security Council meeting on Monday.

“We have described it as a catastrophe, a nightmare, as hell on earth. It is all of these, and worse,” she said of conditions in the besieged territory of 2.4 million people.

Wosornu said “1.1 million people face catastrophic levels of hunger and Gaza remains on the brink of famine” while three quarters of its people had been forcibly displaced, some up to five times.

AP feed shut

Israel on Tuesday shut down US news agency the Associated Press’s live feed from war-torn Gaza, two weeks after it ordered the closure of Al Jazeera.

The AP said Israeli authorities accused the news agency of violating its ban on Al Jazeera, which was targeted based on a new Israeli law governing foreign broadcasters.

The news agency decried the decision “in the strongest terms”, while the White House described Israel’s decision to shut AP’s feed as “concerning”.

Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.

Hamas also took 252 hostages, 124 of whom remain in Gaza including 37 the army says are dead.

Israel’s retaliatory offensive against Hamas has killed at least 35,647 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.

People tend to a Palestinian youth who was injured during Israeli bombardment at the Al Daraj neighbourhood in Gaza City on May 21, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the militant Hamas group. Image Credit: AFP

Recent fighting has raged around the far southern city of Rafah, the last area to face a ground invasion - but fierce combat has also been reported again in the northern Jabalia area where Hamas forces have regrouped.

Israel said Tuesday its forces had “eliminated several militants” in both areas.

The World Health Organization said Jabalia’s Al-Awda Hospital had been “under siege” for two days, trapping 170 patients and staff who had reported sniper fire and a rocket hit.

Israel launched its ground assault on parts of Rafah early this month, defying international opposition including from top ally the United States, which feared for the more than one million civilians trapped there.

Israel has launched mass evacuations from Rafah where it has vowed to destroy Hamas and its tunnel system and rescue remaining hostages.

The UN says more than 800,000 people have fled Rafah, and Wosornu confirmed that “the once over-crowded camps and emergency shelters in Rafah have now largely emptied”.

She said most of the displaced had fled to Khan Yunis and Deir al-Balah in camps where “they lack adequate latrines, water points, drainage and shelter”.

‘No impunity’

The bloody carnage of the Gaza war and the October 7 attack led the ICC’s prosecutor Karim Khan to announce on Monday that he had applied for the arrest warrants against leaders on both sides.

“International law and the laws of armed conflict apply to all,” Khan said. “No foot soldier, no commander, no civilian leader - no one - can act with impunity.”

The request targeted Israel’s Netanyahu and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant as well as Hamas’s Qatar-based Ismail Haniyeh and Gaza-based Mohammed Deif and Yahya Sinwar.

Netanyahu said he rejected “with disgust... the comparison between democratic Israel and the mass murderers of Hamas”, and Biden also stressed that “there is no equivalence - none - between Israel and Hamas”.

Hamas also said on Monday it “strongly condemns” the move.

Gallant on Tuesday said Khan’s “parallel... between the Hamas terrorist organisation and the State of Israel is despicable”.

The warrants, if granted by the ICC judges, would mean that any of the 124 ICC member states would technically be obliged to arrest Netanyahu and the others if they travelled there.

However the court has no mechanism to enforce its orders.