Fighting raged in Gaza Thursday, as Israel rejected a UN independent inquiry report that concluded both Israel and Hamas committed war crimes. Iraq warned of escalation on the Lebanese border as fighting continues.

Israeli helicopters struck Gaza’s Rafah Thursday, residents said, with Hamas militants reporting street battles in the southern city after top US diplomat Antony Blinken said a truce was still possible.

But the war raged on, and tensions soared on Israel’s northern border with more attacks by Hezbollah forces targeting military positions.

Israel said it would respond “with force”.

Western areas of Rafah came under heavy fire on Thursday from the air, sea and land, residents said.

“There was very intense fire from warplanes, Apaches (helicopters) and quadcopters, in addition to Israeli artillery and military battle ships, all of which were striking the area west of Rafah,” one told AFP.

Hamas said its fighters were battling Israeli troops on the streets in the city, near the besieged Gaza Strip’s border with Egypt.

Ceasefire push

A UN investigation concluded that Israel had committed crimes against humanity during the war, while Israeli and Palestinian armed groups had both committed war crimes.

The independent Commission of Inquiry’s report is the first in-depth investigation by UN experts into Gaza’s bloodiest-ever war.

Israel’s foreign ministry dismissed it as “biased and tainted by a distinct anti-Israeli agenda.”

The war has led to widespread destruction, with hospitals out of service and the UN warning of famine.

The World Health Organization said more than 8,000 children aged under five have been treated for acute malnutrition in Gaza, where only two stabilization centers for severely malnourished patients currently operate.

Blinken, in Doha on Wednesday to promote Biden’s ceasefire roadmap, said Washington would work with regional partners to “close the deal”.

Hamas responded to mediators Qatar and Egypt late Tuesday. Blinken said some of its proposed amendments “are workable and some are not”.

Blinken said Israel was behind the plan, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not publicly endorsed it.

 

Regional ‘danger’

Israeli campaign group the Hostages and Missing Families Forum, which seeks a negotiated return of the hostages, said Hamas’s response “represents another step towards accepting Israel’s hostage deal proposal.”

Some Gazans have called on Hamas to do more to secure an agreement.

“Hamas does not see that we are tired, we are dead, we are destroyed,” said a man called Abu Shaker.

On Thursday, a merchant ship caught fire after being hit by two “projectiles” in the Gulf of Aden, Britain’s navy-run United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations said.

Hezbollah on Thursday said it attacked military targets in Israel with barrages of rockets and drones, in retaliation for an Israeli strike that killed one of its commanders.

The Israeli military said most launches had been intercepted while others ignited fires.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein, speaking during a visit to Baghdad by Iran’s acting foreign minister, said the potential “expansion of the war is a danger, not only for Lebanon but for the entire region.”

With AFP