Sirens sound in Tel Aviv for the first time in months as Hamas says it fired rockets from Gaza

The militants have continued to fire projectiles at communities around Gaza more than seven months into the war but have not fired longer-range rockets in months.

Updated - May 26, 2024 05:54 pm IST

Published - May 26, 2024 05:12 pm IST - Deir al-Balah (Gaza Strip)

A Palestinian man walks past a destroyed building in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on May 26, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Hamas militant group continues.

A Palestinian man walks past a destroyed building in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on May 26, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Hamas militant group continues. | Photo Credit: AFP

Rocket sirens sounded across central Israel, including in Tel Aviv, for the first time in months on May 26, as Hamas claimed to have fired a barrage of rockets from Gaza.

The militants have continued to fire projectiles at communities around Gaza more than seven months into the war but have not fired longer-range rockets in months. There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage from the latest barrage.

Earlier on Sunday, aid trucks entered Gaza from southern Israel through a new agreement to bypass the Rafah crossing with Egypt after Israeli forces seized the Palestinian side of it earlier this month. But was unclear if humanitarian groups would be able to access the aid because of ongoing fighting in the area.

Egypt refuses to reopen its side of the Rafah crossing until control of the Gaza side is handed back to Palestinians. It agreed to temporarily divert traffic through Israel's Kerem Shalom crossing, Gaza's main cargo terminal, after a call between US President Joe Biden and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.

But that crossing has been largely inaccessible because of fighting linked to Israel's offensive in the nearby city of Rafah. Israel says it has allowed hundreds of trucks to enter, but United Nations agencies say it is usually too dangerous to retrieve the aid on the other side.

The war between Israel and Hamas, now in its eighth month, has killed nearly 36,000 Palestinians, according to local health officials. Around 80% of the population's 2.3 million people have fled their homes, severe hunger is widespread and UN officials say parts of the territory are experiencing famine.

Hamas triggered the war with its Oct 7 attack into Israel, in which Palestinian militants killed some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and seized some 250 hostages. Hamas is still holding some 100 hostages and the remains of around 30 others after most of the rest were released during a cease-fire last year.

Hamas claimed to have captured an Israeli soldier during fighting in northern Gaza and released video late Saturday showing a wounded man being dragged through a tunnel. The Israeli military denied any of its soldiers had been captured, and Hamas did not provide any other evidence to substantiate its claim.

In a separate development, the Israeli military said it had detained a suspect over a widely circulated video in which a man dressed as an Israeli soldier threatens mutiny. In the video, the man said tens of thousands of soldiers were ready to disobey Defence Minister Yoav Gallant over his suggestion that Palestinians should govern Gaza after the war and pledged loyalty to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu alone.

It was not clear if the man was on active duty, or when or where the video was made. Yair Netanyahu, the prime minister's son, had shared the video on social media, sparking criticism from political opponents. The prime minister's office released a brief statement condemning all forms of military subordination.

Southern Gaza is largely cut off from aid

Egypt's state-run Al-Qahera TV aired footage of what it said were trucks entering Gaza through Kerem Shalom. Khaled Zayed, head of the Egyptian Red Crescent in the Sinai Peninsula, which handles the delivery of aid from the Egyptian side of the Rafah crossing, told The Associated Press that 200 aid trucks and four fuel trucks are scheduled to be sent to Kerem Shalom on Sunday.

It was not immediately clear if the UN was able to retrieve the aid from the Gaza side.

Southern Gaza has been largely cut off from aid since Israel launched what it says is a limited incursion into Rafah on May 6. Since then, over 1 million Palestinians have fled the city, with most having already been displaced from other parts of the besieged territory.

Northern Gaza, which has been largely isolated by Israeli troops for months and where the UN's World Food Programme says famine is already underway, is still receiving aid through two land routes that Israel opened in the face of worldwide outrage after Israeli strikes killed seven aid workers in April.

A few dozen trucks have also been entering Gaza daily through a US-built floating pier, but its capacity remains far below the 150 trucks a day that officials had hoped for. Aid groups say the territory needs a total of 600 trucks a day to meet colossal humanitarian needs.

Netanyahu resists pressure to end war

Mr. Netanyahu has said Israel must take over Rafah in order to eliminate Hamas' last remaining battalions and achieve its goal of “total victory” over the militants, who have recently regrouped in other parts of Gaza where the military had already operated.

Mr. Netanyahu faces growing pressure from the Israeli public to make a deal with Hamas to free the remaining hostages, something Hamas has refused to do without guarantees for an end to the war and the full withdrawal of Israeli troops. Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders have ruled that out.

Scuffles broke out between Israeli police and protesters in Tel Aviv on Saturday after thousands gathered to demonstrate against the government and demand the return of the hostages. The protesters called for Netanyahu's resignation and demanded new elections.

International pressure is also growing, as the war leaves Israel increasingly isolated on the world stage.

Last week, three European countries announced they would recognize a Palestinian state, and the chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court requested arrest warrants for Netanyahu and Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, along with three Hamas leaders.

On Friday, the International Court of Justice ordered Israel to end its military offensive in Rafah. The top United Nations court also said Israel must give war crimes investigators access to Gaza.

Israel is unlikely to comply with the orders, and has sharply condemned the ICC's move toward arrest warrants for its leaders. Israel says it makes every effort to avoid harming civilians and blames their deaths on Hamas because the militants operate in dense, residential areas.

The Gaza Health Ministry said Sunday that the bodies of 81 people killed by Israeli strikes have been brought to local hospitals over the past 24 hours. That brings the overall Palestinian death toll from the war to at least 35,984. The ministry does not distinguish between civilians and fighters in its count.

The Israeli government has said that 14,000 militants and 16,000 civilians have been killed in Gaza since the start of the war, without providing evidence.

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