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Israel launches evacuation operation in Rafah, ahead of announced offensive

Photo: Agence France-Presse Palestinians who took refuge in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip load their belongings into a truck after an evacuation order was issued by the Israeli army on May 6.

France Media Agency to Rafah

Posted at 6:26 a.m. Updated at 9:20 a.m.

  • Middle East

Israel launched an operation on Monday aimed at evacuating tens of thousands of Palestinian families from the east of the town of Rafah, in the south of the Gaza Strip, where the army is preparing an offensive of magnitude in its war against Hamas.

The Palestinian Civil Defense of Gaza said on Monday that the Israeli army had intensified its bombardments on two neighborhoods of Rafah after ordering its residents to evacuate early in the morning.

The Israeli aerial and artillery bombardments “have lasted since last night and have intensified since this morning,” Ahmed Redwan, a spokesperson for the Palestinian civil defense, explained to AFP, specifying that two of the targeted neighborhoods – al-Shuka and al-Salam – were among those the Israeli army asked residents to evacuate.

He said the intensification of shelling coincided with the announcement by Israel to the inhabitants of certain neighborhoods of eastern Rafah that they had to leave, due to an upcoming military operation.

Interviewed by 'AFP, the Israeli army did not immediately comment.

Ossama al-Kahlut, a member of the Red Crescent emergency operations department based in Rafah, confirmed Israeli shelling in the eastern neighborhoods of Rafah.

« It is clear that they are targeting homes, but we have not been informed of the presence of victims in the targeted areas,” he said.

Rafah resident Yakoub al-Sheikh Salama, 30, reported intense shelling in several neighborhoods, including al-Salam and al-Shuka.

« There are loud explosions and terrifying sounds of aerial bombardment and artillery,” he told AFP.

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Terror and panic

The Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has been announcing an upcoming offensive on Rafah for weeks, essential according to him to annihilate the last battalions of the Islamist movement in the Palestinian territory.

“The evacuation process began on the ground, in a limited way. Residents are evacuating in terror and panic,” Ossama al-Kahlout, a Palestinian Red Crescent official in eastern Rafah, told AFP, adding that the designated areas were home to around 250,000 people.< /p>

The army confirmed that it had “begun a limited-scale operation to temporarily evacuate people residing in eastern Rafah”, estimating the number of people affected to be “around 100,000”.

Residents told AFP that they learned the news when they woke up, after a night of anxiety punctuated by around ten Israeli strikes. Some were preparing their things, in their tents flooded by heavy rain.

Rafah, on the southern edge of the Gaza Strip, has been transformed into a gigantic refugee camp sheltering , according to the UN, 1.2 million Palestinians, or half of the territory's population, most of them displaced people who fled the war further north.

Despite the opposition of many capitals and international organizations which fear a bloodbath, Benjamin Netanyahu promised to launch this offensive whatever the outcome of the indirect negotiations aimed at imposing a truce associated with the release of hostages held in Gaza.

A round of talks ended Sunday in Cairo without progress. Hamas continues to demand a definitive ceasefire while Israel promises to destroy the Islamist movement, which launched an unprecedented attack on its soil on October 7, which sparked the war.

“Where to go?”

Leaflets dropped Monday morning on eastern Rafah neighborhoods warn that “the Israeli army is preparing to act forcefully against terrorist organizations” and that anyone remaining “in the area puts their lives and those of their families in danger.”

“For your safety, the Israeli army asks you to immediately evacuate to the expanded humanitarian zone of al-Mawasi”, about ten kilometers from Rafah, it is indicated.

According to the military, “field hospitals, tents and an increasing volume of food, water, medicine and other supplies” are set up in this area.

“All those residing in the designated areas are evacuating their homes,” a resident, wishing to remain anonymous, told AFP, “whose sister lives in an affected neighborhood. »

“My family and I, 13 people, don’t know where to go,” said Abdul Rahman Abu Jazar, a 36-year-old man who lives in a neighborhood to be evacuated .

The “humanitarian zones” indicated by the army are already “overcrowded”, with “no place to pitch tents or schools to shelter us”, “there is no there are no hospitals in this area,” he continued.

“Dismantle Hamas”

During the night, the army bombarded Rafah, killing 16 people from two families, according to rescuers.

The evacuation which began on Monday “is part of our plans dismantling Hamas” of which “we had a violent reminder of the presence and operational capacity in Rafah yesterday”, underlined an army spokesperson.

On Sunday, three Israeli soldiers were killed and twelve injured by rockets fired from east of Rafah around the Kerem Shalom crossing, the main entry point for humanitarian aid from Israel to Gaza.< /p>

The armed wing of Hamas claimed responsibility for the shots, which led Israel to close the crossing, while international aid trickles into the besieged territory, where UN fears widespread famine.

The war broke out on October 7 when Hamas commandos infiltrated from Gaza launched an attack in southern Israel that resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP report compiled in from official Israeli data.

During the attack, more than 250 people were kidnapped and 128 remain captive in Gaza, of whom 35 died, according to the army.

The Israeli offensive launched in the Gaza Strip in retaliation has so far left 34,683 dead, mostly civilians, according to the Hamas Ministry of Health . Israel has vowed to annihilate the Islamist movement, in power in Gaza since 2007, which it considers a terrorist organization along with the United States and the European Union.

“Continue negotiations”

The offer from the mediator countries, Qatar, Egypt and the United States, presented to Hamas at the end of April, provides for a truce associated with the release of hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

Benjamin Netanyahu reaffirmed on Sunday that Israel could not “accept” the demands of Hamas, which is calling for a definitive ceasefire in the Palestinian territory as a prerequisite for any agreement, particularly on the release of hostages.

Hamas, however, indicated on Monday that it intended to continue negotiating a truce. “We will continue negotiations in a positive and open manner to reach an agreement […] which provides for an unlimited ceasefire,” a spokesperson for the movement, Abdel Latif Al-Qanou, told AFP.

The director of the CIA, the American intelligence service, William Burns, is expected in Qatar on Monday, according to a source close to the negotiations, for an “emergency meeting with the prime minister” of the emirate, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdelrahmane Al Thani, “to discuss ways to get talks back on track.”

“No international pressure” will prevent Israel from “defending itself,” warned Sunday Benjamin Netanyahu. “If Israel must remain alone, Israel will remain alone,” he insisted, while denouncing the “terrible volcano of anti-Semitism” sweeping across the world, according to him.

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