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Gaza: Rafah prepares for a possible military offensive by Israel

The city of Rafah, where crowding together nearly 1.5 million Palestinians, prepares for Monday   a possible offensive by the Israeli army, after international mediators met in Cairo to negotiate a possible deal. ve in the Gaza Strip.

These discussions, also aimed at leading to the release of hostages held by the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, are experiencing “significant progress”, the pro-government Egyptian media Al-Qahera News reported on Monday, citing a high-ranking Egyptian source.

On Sunday, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant indicated that his country's forces “are preparing to continue their missions (…) in the area of ​​Rafah”, a town bordering Egypt on the southern tip of Gaza where nearly 1.5 million Palestinians are gathered, the majority displaced.

A few hours earlier, Israeli troops had withdrawn from Khan Younes , another town in the south of the coastal territory, epicenter of fighting, in order “to prepare for future operations” according to the army.

Mr. Netanyahu reaffirmed his determination to eradicate Hamas “across the entire Gaza Strip, including in Rafah”, a city he presents as the last major bastion of the Islamist movement.

Historical allies of Israel, the United States have repeatedly expressed their disapproval of a possible operation in Rafah, considered too costly in human lives.

Sunday, dozens of Palestinian refugees in Rafah headed back to Khan Younes, immediately after the Israeli withdrawal, according to AFP images.

Gaza: Rafah prepares for a possible military offensive by Israel

Palestinians in donkey carts pass buildings destroyed by an Israeli strike in Khan Yunis, southern Gaza Strip, on April 7, 2024. © AFP – –

On foot, by car or on carts pulled by donkeys, AFP photos show lonely men and women walking in a city that has become a field of ruins.

“All the streets were bulldozed. And the smell… I saw people digging and taking out the bodies”, testifies to AFP Maha Taher, 38 years old, mother of four children, returned to Khan Younès on Sunday.

– “Significant progress” –

Gaza: Rafah prepares for a possible military offensive by Israel

Palestinians walk past buildings destroyed by Israeli strikes in Khan Younes, southern Gaza Strip, April 7, 2024 © AFP – –

The Israeli army's announcements came alongside a new round of indirect negotiations in Cairo between Hamas and Israel via international mediators Egypt, the United States and Qatar .

The source cited by Al-Qahera News, a media outlet close to the Egyptian security services, reported “significant progress” in terms of reconciling points of view on several points of dispute in the agreement under discussion.

The delegations of Qatar and Hamas left Cairo and will return there “within two days to finalize the terms of the agreement”, the media also indicates.

The American and Israeli delegations must leave the Egyptian capital “in the coming hours” and consultations will continue over the next 48 hours, explains the same source.

Gaza: Rafah prepares for a possible military offensive by Israel

6 months of violence in the Gaza Strip © AFP – Valentin RAKOVSKY, Sabrina BLANCHARD

On Saturday, Hamas, considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States and the European Union, assured that it would not give up its demands for an agreement: “a cease -complete fire”, an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, a return of the displaced and a “serious” agreement to exchange hostages and Palestinian prisoners.

Mr. Netanyahu retorted on Sunday that there would be no ceasefire without the release of all the hostages.

– “More than catastrophic” situation –

The war was launched on October 7, when Hamas commandos carried out an unprecedented attack in southern Israel, resulting in the deaths of 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to a report established by AFP based on official Israeli figures.

Gaza: Rafah prepares for a possible military offensive by Israel

Demonstration in support of the hostages held by Hamas and their families in front of the Parliament in Jerusalem, April 7, 2024 © AFP – Menahem Kahana

More than 250 people have been kidnapped and 129 are still detained in Gaza, 34 of whom have died according to Israeli officials.

On Sunday, there were thousands of them, massed in front of the headquarters of the Israeli Parliament in Jerusalem, to support the families of captives held in Gaza. “To you, who are still there, hold on,” said Agam Goldstein, 17, a hostage released at the end of November on stage.

In retaliation for the attack on October 7, Israel vowed to destroy Hamas and launched intense bombings on Palestinian territory before leading a ground offensive there.

On the Palestinian side, the war has cost the lives of 33,175 people in Gaza, most of them civilians, according to Hamas.

In addition to the human toll and destruction, the war has caused a humanitarian catastrophe in the territory where 2.4 million Palestinians are threatened with famine, according to the UN. Strictly controlled by Israel, aid transported by land via Egypt arrives in dribs and drabs.

Gaza: Rafah prepares for a possible military offensive by Israel

Conflict in Gaza: the cost of destruction by type of infrastructure © AFP – Sylvie HUSSON, Jean-Michel CORNU

“My 8-year-old son asks me for food but I have nothing to give him (…) I wish death for me and my children to be freed from this torment,” Labad, a mother, told AFP of four children who took refuge with relatives after the destruction of her house in Jabaliya (center).

On Sunday, several United Nations agencies and humanitarian organizations described it as “more “catastrophic” the situation in Gaza.

“Houses, schools, hospitals are in ruins. Teachers, doctors, humanitarian workers are killed. Famine is imminent,” the head of the Unicef, Catherine Russell.

After the death of seven humanitarian workers – including an Australian – from the American NGO World Central Kitchen in an Israeli strike on April 1, Canberra instructed a former military official on Monday to work with Israel to ensure “transparency” in the investigation.

The war is also having repercussions on the border between Lebanon and Israel . The Israeli army claimed on Sunday to have completed a “new phase” in its preparation for “war” on this border where deadly exchanges of fire with Hezbollah are intensifying.

In the field of justice, Germany for its part faces accusations from Nicaragua on Monday before the highest court of the UN, the Central American country accusing Berlin of facilitating “the commission of a genocide” against the Palestinians by supporting Israel militarily and politically. Incriminations that Berlin rejects.

All rights of reproduction and representation reserved. © (2024) Agence France-Presse

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116