CAIRO: Israeli tanks forged deeper into eastern Rafah on Tuesday, reaching some residential districts of the southern border city where more than a million people had been sheltering after being displaced in seven months of war.

Israel’s international allies and aid groups have repeatedly urged against a ground incursion into refugee-packed Rafah, warning of a potential humanitarian catastrophe.

The World Court, also known as the International Court of Justice, said it would hold hearings on Thursday and Friday to discuss a request by South Africa seeking new emergency measures over the Rafah incursion, which Qatar says has stalled efforts to reach a ceasefire.

South Africa’s demand is part of a case it brought against Israel accusing it of violating the genocide convention in Gaza, and which Israel has called baseless. It would provide its views on the latest petition on Friday, the UN court said.

Israel has vowed to press on into Rafah even without the support of allies, saying its operation is necessary to root out four remaining Hamas battalions holed up in the city.

“The tanks advanced this morning west of Salahuddin Road into the Brzail and Jneina neighbourhoods. They are in the streets inside the built-up area and there are clashes,” one resident told Reuters via a chat app. Video on social media showed one tank on George Street in Al-Jneina neighbourhood. Reuters could not verify the video.

Hamas’s armed wing said it had destroyed an Israeli troop carrier with an Al-Yassin 105 missile in the eastern Al-Salam neighbourhood, killing some crew members and wounding others.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) declined to comment on the report.

In a round-up of its activities, the IDF said its forces had eliminated “several armed terrorist” cells in close-quarter fighting on the Gazan side of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt. In the east of the city, it said it had also destroyed militant cells and a launch post from where missiles were being fired at IDF troops.

Israel issued evacuation orders for people to move from parts of eastern Rafah a week ago, with a second round of orders extending to further zones on Saturday.

They are moving to empty tracts of land, including Al-Mawasi, a sandy strip bordering the coast that aid agencies have warned lacks sanitary and other facilities to host an influx of displaced people.

UNRWA, the main United Nations aid agency in Gaza, estimates some 450,000 people have fled Rafah since May 6.

“People face constant exhaustion, hunger and fear. Nowhere is safe,” the agency posted on X.

The war has pushed much of Gaza’s population to the brink of famine, the UN says, and has devastated its medical facilities, where hospitals, if working at all, are running short of fuel to power generators and other essential supplies.

James Smith, a British emergency room doctor volunteering in hospitals in southern Gaza, said that he had been told by a World Health Organisation official that some emergency fuel had made it into the strip.

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