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Israel says it will send more troops to Rafah

JERUSALEM — Israel’s defense minister says more troops will be sent into the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where the military says it has destroyed Hamas tunnels and killed dozens of terrorists.

Israel began what it said was a limited operation in Rafah last week after the United States and other allies pressed it not to launch a full-scale invasion.

The limited operation has sparked an exodus of 600,000 Palestinians from the city, according to the United Nations. Before the incursion, more than a million Palestinians who had fled fighting in other areas were sheltering in Rafah.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, visiting the area on Wednesday, said “this operation will continue as additional forces will enter.” He said “we are wearing Hamas down,” more than seven months into the war.

Israel’s military said Thursday its forces have killed 100 terrorists since it launched the invasion into Rafah last week.

Military spokesman Lt. Col. Nadav Shoshani told reporters Thursday that Israeli forces found terrorist tunnel shafts underneath and in the vicinity of the Rafah crossing near the border with Egypt. Israeli forces seized the crossing at the start of the operation in Rafah.

“We are continuing to operate in the Rafah crossing,” Shoshani said.

Shoshani said forces were also operating in the northern Gaza areas of Jabaliya and Zeitoun where fierce fighting continued with terrorists.

South Africa told the United Nations’ top court on Thursday the situation in Gaza has reached “a new and horrific stage” as it sought emergency measures to halt Israel’s military operation in the enclave’s southern city of Rafah.

The United States has warned Israel not to launch a wide-scale offensive in Rafah because of the toll it would take on civilians. President Joe Biden has said the U.S. won’t provide offensive weapons for such an operation.

The war began Oct. 7 when Hamas terrorists attacked southern Israel, killing around 1,200 people there, mostly civilians, and taking about 250 hostage. Israel says terrorists still hold around 100 hostages and the remains of more than 30 others.

The ensuing war has killed more than 35,000 people in Gaza according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza.

Meanwhile, the Israeli military said two Thai farmworkers believed to have been taken hostage by Hamas were killed in the Oct. 7 terrorist attack.

Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the top military spokesman, said Thursday that Sonthaya Oakkharasri and Sudthisak Rinthalak were killed during the initial attack and their remains are being held by Hamas terrorists.

The Hotline for Migrants and Asylum Seekers, an Israeli organization, said it had celebrated Oakkharasri’s 31st birthday on Thursday, believing he was alive.

Farming communities in southern Israel employ a large number of Thai workers, who are drawn to the country by higher wages.

The Arab League on Thursday called for an immediate end to fighting in the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip and blamed Israeli “obstruction” for failed negotiations for a cease-fire.

The countries represented at the summit in Bahrain also called for the release of “hostages and detainees.”

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