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CAIRO: Israeli tanks advanced deeper into the western area of Rafah, amid one of the worst nights of bombardment from air, ground, and sea, forcing many families to flee their homes and tents under darkness, residents said on Thursday.

Residents said the Israeli forces thrust towards the Al-Mawasi area of Rafah near the beach, which is designated as a humanitarian area in all announcements and maps published by the Israeli army since it began its Rafah aggression in May.

Hamas seeking US guarantees over Gaza ceasefire plan

The Israeli military denied in a statement it had launched any strikes inside the Al-Mawasi humanitarian zone. Israel said its assault aimed to wipe out Hamas’ last intact combat units in Rafah, a city which had sheltered more than a million people before the latest advance began.

Most of those people have now moved north towards Khan Younis and Deir Al-Balah in central Gaza Strip.

The Israeli military said in a statement it was continuing “intelligence-based, targeted operations” on Rafah, saying forces in the past day had located weapons, and killed Palestinian gunmen in close-range combat.

Israel has ruled out peace until Hamas is eradicated, and much of Gaza lies in ruins.

Ceasefire proposal

The group welcomed a new US ceasefire proposal but made some amendments, reaffirming its stance that any agreement must secure an end to the war, a demand Israel still rejects. Israel described Hamas’s response to the new US peace proposal as total rejection.

But the efforts to secure agreement are still continuing, according to mediators Qatar and Egypt, backed by the United States.

Since a brief week-long truce in November, repeated attempts to arrange a ceasefire have failed, with Hamas insisting on a permanent end to the war and full Israeli withdrawal from Gaza.

Israeli tanks storm back into north Gaza areas where they had withdrawn

Israel’s invasion and bombardment of Gaza since then has killed at least 37,000 people, according to the territory’s health ministry.

Thousands more are feared buried dead under rubble, with most of the 2.3 million population displaced.

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