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Senior Israeli officials have been threatening a major military operation into the city of Rafah and surrounding areas in southern Gaza for weeks.

On Sunday, Israeli defence minister Yoav Gallant warned it could take place “imminently” as talks on a ceasefire with Hamas fizzled-out in Cairo.

Now, they have taken a major step towards it.

War latest: Families flee Rafah as IDF orders 100,000 to evacuate

On Monday morning, the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) released a statement instructing people in southeastern Gaza to advance towards an “expanded humanitarian area” to the north, centred around the city of Khan Younis, and a coastal community called Al-Mawasi.

The IDF said it “includes field hospitals, tents and increased amounts of food, water, medication and additional supplies”.

The claim will be greeted with scepticism by international aid agencies that have argued the Israelis have failed to do enough to facilitate such aid.

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Civilians are being told to move to an ‘expanded humanitarian area’ to the north

The UN’s refugee agency in Gaza, UNRWA, immediately questioned the operation on X.

UNRWA said an offensive “would mean more civilian suffering and deaths” and that “the consequences would be devastating for 1.4 million people”.

The vast majority of people living in southern Gaza have already been displaced by the fighting further north.

And in what represents a significant juncture, the Israelis are instructing them to return to areas that have already badly damaged in this conflict.

Palestinians hold a leaflet dropped by the military aircraft of the Israeli army on the east of the city of Rafah, ordering them to evacuate and move towards the west of the city and the city of Khan Yunis.
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Israel has been dropping evacuation leaflets from the air. Pic: AP

Khan Younis was placed under siege by the IDF in January and many neighbourhoods have been partially – or completely – destroyed.

However, there are no doubts about the Israelis’ intent.

Leaflets are now being dropped in southeastern Gaza, stating: “Anyone in the area puts themselves and their family members in danger. For your safety, evacuate immediately….”

Palestinians search for casualties under the rubble of a house destroyed in an Israeli strike, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip May 6, 2024. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
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Aerial strikes have caused havoc – but there are fears a ground attack would be even worse. Pic: Reuters

With this operation, Israel would test the very limits of support that it receives from Western countries like the US, the UK and members of the European Union.

Last week, US secretary of state Antony Blinken suggested an incursion into Rafah was a step too far, warning the Israelis had yet to produce “a clear, credible plan to protect civilians”.

Until it does, Mr Blinken said Washington “cannot and will not support a major military operation” in the area.

Read more:
Peace looks distant as ever after Israel refuses ceasefire terms
Inside Gaza protest’s last stand

Now, Israel’s chief ally and military backer will have to formulate a response, one which requires them to evaluate the nature and extent of this complicated relationship.

But it seems Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his war cabinet have made up their minds.

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Zelenskyy calls on Biden and Xi to join Ukraine peace summit

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Zelenskyy calls on Biden and Xi to join Ukraine peace summit

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has directly called on his US and Chinese counterparts to join his latest summit for peace in Ukraine.

Speaking from Kharkiv in northeastern Ukraine on Friday, Mr Zelenskyy announced a “global peace summit”, co-hosted by Switzerland, starting on 15 June.

He claimed 80 countries have already confirmed their attendance.

But he said: “I am appealing to the global leaders of the world who are still outside the global efforts of the global peace summit.

“To President Biden, the leader of the United States, and to President Xi, the leader of China, we do not want the UN charter to be burned.

“Please show your leadership in advancing the peace.”

Residents evacuated from a building hit by strikes in Kharkiv on Saturday. Pic: Reuters
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Residents evacuated from a building hit by strikes in Kharkiv on Saturday. Pic: Reuters

He added that it must be “real peace – not just a pause in the strikes” after various ceasefire breaches by the Russians.

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Finally, he urged: “The efforts of the global majority are the best guarantee that all commitments will be fulfilled.”

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Shopping mall hit by strike in Kharkiv on Saturday. Pic: Reuters

Printworks and shopping centre targeted this week

Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second city, with a pre-war population of 1.5 million people, is close to the frontline, and has been consistently targeted since the initial invasion in February 2022.

On Thursday, its ‘Vivat’ printworks, which is the country’s largest, was hit by missiles, killing seven people, and destroying an estimated 50,000 books. A further 21 people were injured, Ukrainian officials said.

On Saturday, a strike on a shopping centre killed six people, injured 40, and left a further 16 unaccounted for, local authorities said.

Elsewhere in the city, an additional 11 people were injured as a result of strikes, including a 13-year-old boy.

Just over the border, in Russia’s Belgorod region, the regional governor there said four residents died as a result of Ukrainian attacks on Saturday.

Aftermath of Russian strike on Kharkiv on Saturday. Pic: Reuters
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Aftermath of Russian strike on Kharkiv on Saturday. Pic: Reuters

Read more
Crowded DIY stores hit by strikes
Ukrainians training without firing due to shortages
Putin thanks Xi for his Ukraine efforts

Mr Zelenskyy warned a new Russian offensive is being planned northwest of Kharkiv.

Ukrainians and military analysts have repeatedly warned of depleting weapon supplies on the frontline.

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Earlier this month the US agreed to a further $2bn (£1.6bn) in military support for Ukraine.

It has consistently resisted calls to send US troops there, in line with NATO’s refusal for direct involvement in the conflict.

China has resisted calls by NATO and its member states to take a direct stance against Russia in support of Ukraine.

President Xi hosted Russian leader Vladimir Putin in a show of “friendship” earlier this month.

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Hamas launches first rocket attack on Israel from Gaza in months

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Hamas launches first rocket attack on Israel from Gaza in months

Hamas has launched rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza for the first time in months.

The barrage of rockets set off air raid sirens in cities as far away as Tel Aviv.

There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage in what appeared to be the first long-range rocket attack from Gaza since January, although Palestinian militants have continued to sporadically fire rockets and mortar rounds at communities along the Gaza border since then.

Hamas’s military wing claimed responsibility for the attack.

The Israeli military said eight projectiles crossed into Israel after being launched from the area of the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where Israeli forces recently launched an incursion.

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You can receive breaking news alerts on a smartphone or tablet via the Sky News app. You can also follow @SkyNews on X or subscribe to our YouTube channel to keep up with the latest news.

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India: Newborn babies killed in fire at hospital in Delhi after ‘chain of explosions’

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India: Newborn babies killed in fire at hospital in Delhi after 'chain of explosions'

At least six newborn babies have died after a fire broke out at a children’s hospital in India, according to reports.

Firefighters said they carried 12 newborns out of the centre in the Vivek Vihar district of east New Delhi late on Saturday night, but five of them died due to smoke inhalation.

Two other infants are believed to have already died, according to local media. There are differing reports as to whether six or seven infants have been killed so far.

Another five survived and are being treated in a nearby hospital, Delhi fire department chief Atul Garg said.

The blaze, which broke out on the first floor of the hospital, was put out after about an hour.

Burnt registration cards lie on the floor of a baby care center in New Delhi, India, Sunday, May 26, 2024. A fire broke out in the care center on Saturday night killing six infants, a fire service officer said on Sunday. (AP Photo/Dinesh Joshi)
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Burnt registration cards lie on the floor of the hospital. Pic: AP

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Mr Garg told the ANI news agency that an oxygen cylinder blast was the likely cause of the fire, but there has been no official confirmation.

“It was a very tough operation,” he was quoted as saying by India Today.

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“We made two teams. One team started firefighting because there was a blast of cylinders. We can say it was a chain of blasts of cylinders.

“We had to save ourselves also. We started rescue operations for babies as well. Unfortunately, we could not save all the children… That is a regrettable incident.”

The owner of the baby hospital has fled, according to Delhi police.

Arvind Kejriwal, Delhi’s chief minister, called the fire “heartbreaking”, adding that the “causes of the incident are being investigated and whoever is responsible for this negligence will not be spared”.

Machines move the debris following a fire in a gaming zone in Rajkot, in the western state of Gujarat, India, May 26, 2024. REUTERS/Amit Dave
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Machines move debris after a fire in Rajkot. Pic: Reuters

Earlier on Saturday, at least 27 people were killed in a fire at a crowded amusement park in the city of Rajkot in Gujarat state in western India.

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