Israeli Military Allows Foreign Journalists Into Rafah for the First Time Since Ground Assault Began in May | Video

On Wednesday the IDF escorted a small group of foreign journalists into Rafah for the first time since it launched a ground assault against Hamas in the city in May. CBS News’ Holly Williams said the military’s strategy appeared clear: “to show us what they’ve accomplished since launching their ground offensive.”

“This is now a wasteland,” Williams reported. “The only people we’re seeing here are Israeli soldiers. We didn’t see any of the militants who were still fighting. But we heard sporadic outgoing gunfire from the Israeli side.”

As Williams recalled, Israel acted against “the objections of the U.S., its closest ally” when the country launched the ground offensive. “Israel said it had to go into Rafa because Hamas’ four remaining battalions were hiding here, using tunnels connected to Egypt to smuggle in weapons,” she explained. “The Israeli soldiers told us they’ve uncovered a terror ecosystem underneath the city. Israel’s military is saying that this is a tunnel used by Hamas, and they say they discovered it just in the last couple of weeks.”

Military officials told CBS that some of the newly discovered tunnels connected Hamas with Egypt through the southern border. Israel has accused Hamas of smuggling supplies into the country through such a route for years.

Over one million people, many of whom were displaced from northern Gaza, were sheltering in Rafah at the time; since then they have been forced to evacuate elsewhere.

Williams opted to allow “my cameraman to do the work” due to “destruction here on a scale that is impossible to adequately put into words.” The footage shared by CBS shows a shattered city, piles of building debris and rubble, and no trace of civilians. Rafah had a pre-war population of 275,000, of which approximately 50,000 people remain.

Watch CBS’ full report in the video above and see the Associated Press’ own footage below.

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