Israel attacked Rafah on May 6, promising a “limited” operation against Hamas fighters, but two months later, the southernmost city has been reduced to a dust-covered ghost town.

An Associated Press photojournalist was among the first foreign journalists allowed into the Palestinian city, which has sheltered more than two million Gazans displaced by Israel’s devastating war. Israel has barred international journalists from freely entering Gaza.

More than 150 Palestinian journalists reporting from the ground have been killed in Israeli strikes, making it one of the deadliest conflicts for journalists.

Abandoned, bullet-riddled apartment buildings have blown out walls and shattered windows. Bedrooms and kitchens overlook the rubble-strewn streets that Israeli military vehicles drive over. Very few civilians remain.

Israel, which has been accused of using disproportionate force in Gaza, says its goal is the complete defeat of Hamas. Since October 7, 2023, Israeli air and ground operations have destroyed more than 70 percent of the enclave’s houses.

In the last week of May, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered Israel to “immediately” halt its military offensive on Rafah, which is facing a humanitarian crisis due to aid cuts. In January, the UN High Court ordered Israel to Stopping acts of genocide.

About 40,000 people have been killed, half of them children and women.

Rafah, an area of ​​about 65 square kilometers (25 square miles) along the Egyptian border, was considered a safe zone where most Palestinians fleeing Israeli bombardment took refuge. But Israel attacked the southern city despite international concerns, saying Hamas fighters had moved into the area. He provided no evidence for his claims. Since the start of the war nine months ago, Israel has repeatedly targeted areas designated as safe zones.

An estimated 1.4 million Palestinians entered Rafah after fleeing Israeli bombardment elsewhere in Gaza. The United Nations estimates that about 50,000 people remain in Rafah, which had a pre-war population of about 275,000. Last week, the United Nations said most of Gaza’s 2.4 million people had now been displaced.

Most people are huddled in tent camps along the beach with little access to clean water, food, toilets and medical care.

Efforts to get aid to southern Gaza have stalled after Israel closed Rafah, one of two main crossings south of Gaza. The United Nations says little aid can enter through the other main crossing, Karim Abu Salem (Karim Shalom), because Israeli settlers have attacked aid trucks.

On Wednesday, a line of trucks could be seen on the Gaza side of Karim Abu Salem, but the trucks were barely moving – a sign that the route was secured to facilitate the delivery of aid into Gaza. How Israel’s commitment to keep has failed.

UN officials say some commercial trucks have made their way to Rafah, but not without armed guards aboard their convoys.

Israel says it is close to eliminating the group as an organized military force in Rafah. In a reflection of this confidence, the soldiers escorted the journalists down the road leading to the center of the city in open-air military vehicles.

Along the way, the debris on the side of the road made clear the dangers of aid deliveries: truck bodies baking in the hot sun; Dashboards are covered by fencing intended to protect drivers. And the support boards are empty.

Humanitarian groups say that the longer aid flows are halted, Gaza will run out of fuel, which is needed for hospitals, water treatment plants and vehicles. Most of the hospitals have been disabled due to successive Israeli attacks.

“Hospitals are once again running short of fuel, which threatens to disrupt critical services,” said Dr. Hanan Balkhi, WHO regional director for the Eastern Mediterranean. “Injured people are dying as ambulance services face delays due to fuel shortages.”

As the humanitarian situation worsens, Israel is stepping up its aggression. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reiterated that any potential ceasefire agreement must allow Israel to resume operations in Gaza. Hamas wants an end to the war as part of any deal.

After reporters heard gunshots nearby on Wednesday, soldiers told the group they would not visit the beach as planned.

The group left the city soon after, clouds of dust kicked up by the vehicles temporarily hiding the destruction behind them.

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