Hundreds of thousands flee Rafah as fighting intensifies in Gaza

Editor's Note: This page is a summary of news on the Israel-Hamas war for Monday, May 13. For the latest news, view our live updates file for Tuesday, May. 14.

Israeli tanks and troops pushed across a highway into Rafah as hundreds of thousands of residents fled some of the most intense fighting in weeks along the northern and southern edges of the Gaza Strip.

UNRWA, the U.N. aid agency in Gaza, estimated 360,000 people had fled the southern city of Rafah since the first evacuation order a week ago. Israel stepped up aerial and ground bombardments in eastern areas of the city while Palestinians packed cars, trucks and carts to flee the violence. Aid groups warned the already alarming humanitarian crisis could grow more grave.

"The situation is dreadful and the sounds of explosions never stopped,” Bassam, 57, from the Shaboura neighborhood in Rafah, told Reuters via a chat app.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in a phone call with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant late Sunday, "reaffirmed the U.S. opposition to a major military ground operation in Rafah," the State Department said.

Fighting in Rafah has been ramping up for weeks, but now Israeli forces that left some northern areas months ago are back as part of a "mop-up" effort to prevent fighters from returning, the Israeli military said. The Gaza Health Ministry said the bodies of 20 Palestinians were recovered after overnight air strikes on Jabalia, a sprawling refugee camp in northern Gaza. The Palestinian death toll in Gaza surpassed 35,000, the ministry said.

Palestinian girl needs life-saving treat but can't leave Gaza because of border closing


∎ Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday that "more than 1,000" Hamas militants are being treated in Turkish hospitals. He described Hamas as a “resistance organization.”

∎ More than 150,000 pregnant women in Gaza face "terrible sanitary conditions and health hazards" due to displacement and infrastructure damage from the war, UNRWA said in a social media post.

∎ Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was heckled Monday while speaking at a Memorial Day ceremony at Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl military cemetery. Some protesters chanted, "You took my children." Others silently walked out.

Israel orders Palestinians to evacuate from more areas of Gaza's Rafah

Men and children queue to receive food rations from a public kitchen in Deir el-Balah in the central Gaza Strip on May 13, 2024.
Men and children queue to receive food rations from a public kitchen in Deir el-Balah in the central Gaza Strip on May 13, 2024.

UN staffer killed in Rafah

A U.N. Safety and Security staffer was killed and another wounded Monday when their vehicle was attacked while traveling to the European Hospital in Rafah, U.N. spokesperson Farhan Haq said. No details were immediately released. Secretary-General António Guterres "condemns all attacks on UN personnel" and called for an investigation, Haq said in a statement. Guterres sends his condolences to the family of the fallen staff member, the statement said.

"With the conflict in Gaza continuing to take a heavy toll – not only on civilians, but also on humanitarian workers – the secretary-general reiterates his urgent appeal for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and for the release of all hostages," Haq said in the statement.

Fewer women and children killed in war than previously reported, UN says

The percentage of women and children killed during the war in Gaza is considerably lower than the nearly 70% the Hamas-run Health Ministry has previously said, according to revised numbers published by the United Nations. However, the total of approximately 35,000 deaths in the territory remains the same.

Relying on Health Ministry data, the U.N. reported May 6 more than 14,500 children and 9,500 women among the 34,735 fatalities in Gaza, or 69% percent. Two days later, that figure was down to 52% − 7,797 children and 4,959 women out of a total of 24,686 fatalities for whom the ministry has complete details. The rest were categorized as men and elderly people.

Ministry officials, who don't differentiate between civilians and combatants in their tally, recently acknowledged they don't have enough identifying information for more than 11,000 Palestinians killed in Gaza as a result of the war.

Israelis trash aid trucks bound for Gaza

Videos authenticated by Al Jazeera show Israelis attacking food aid trucks at a checkpoint in Hebron in the occupied West Bank, preventing the aid from reaching Gaza. Israeli protesters blocked the trucks and tossed food packages on the road in the latest in a series of incidents despite Israeli pledges to allow uninterrupted humanitarian supplies into the enclave.

Four demonstrators, including a minor, were arrested at the protest, according to a statement from lawyers representing them. The protesters object to delivery of humanitarian supplies into an area controlled by Hamas for fear the aid will not reach civilians in need, the lawyers say. Four people were arrested last week after a similar incident.

Some Palestinians, Israelis mark Memorial Day together

Israel was marking Memorial Day and Independence Day over 48 consecutive hours starting Sunday night. Peace advocacy groups Combatants for Peace and Parents Circle-Family Forum noted the occasion with the 19th annual joint Israeli-Palestinian ceremony. Last year's event drew almost 15,000 people to a Tel Aviv park and an estimated 200,000 online viewers.

This year's event was conducted solely online because Israel revoked all entry permits to Palestinians after the Hamas-led mass invasion of Oct. 7. The ceremony was pre-recorded last week and streamed online Sunday night. Organizers predicted hundreds of thousands would view it around the world.

Palestinian speakers included Ahmed Helou, who said he has lost dozens of extended family members in the Israel-Hamas war. Helou, as translated by the Times of Israel, said everyone involved in the conflict has "a story, a family and dreams." Among the Israeli speakers was Yonatan Zeigen, son of Canadian-Israeli peace activist Vivian Silver, who was among those killed Oct. 7.

“How many generations of bereavement are needed until we grasp that the only way… is peace?" Zeigen said.

Contributing: Reuters

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Israel war live updates: 360,000 flee Rafah as fighting intensifies